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Joe Christy&.

Prelude: The Company 8
P-38 Development 12
The Aleutian and North Atlantic Ferry
North Africa 46
South-West Pacific 1942-1943 64
Sicily and Italy 82
Europe 100
Far Ea t Victory 1944-1945 122
P-38 Production 142
Joe Christy and Jeff Ethell
E pecially, it is dedicated to the ex-
Lightning commanders and pilot who
contributed: Oliver B. Taylor, John Tilley,
o ug Canning, Hank Schneider, Carroll
'Andy' Ander on, Jack Lenox, Lee Carr,
Sidney Inglet, Sterling Winn, Warren
Campbell, George Laven, Art Beimdiek, Bill
Hoelle, Frank Barnecott, corgc
Fleckenstein, Jack Curti, Downey linch,
Guy Watson, Norm Jackson, Frank Lawson,
Jack Fehrenbach, Tom Jone, Dick Burn,
Revis Sirmon,. Ben Mason, Ray Toliver,
Robbie Robert on, Jules Hymel, Frank
Shearin, Ross Humer, Richard Bracey, Hugh
Bozarth, Jack Goebel, Carroll Knott, Harry
Brown, Don De sert, Nick Zinni, Jack Jone
Bob Margison, Carl Gardner, Sherrill Huff,
Bill Caughlin, Franci Pope, Billy Broadfoot,
John Stege, Erv Ethell, J. B. Wood on,
George O. Doherty, Robert H. French,
Noah Ray Tipton, James E. Kunkle, Fredric
Arnold, D. A. Suddeth, Bob Woodard, and
Royal Frey. Again, our sincere thanks ...
A work of this kind is hardly po ible
without the aid of a great many people. The
authors cannot adequately thank all tho e
who helped, but we can dedicate thi book to
So, we tru t that you will approve of the
use we made of your help, Ginny Fincik, and
Maj Shirley Bach of the USAF 1361st Photo
Squadron; and Wayne Pryor at Lockheed,
James Knott of the Allison Division of
General Motors, and General Ben Kel ey.
This book i also dedicated to 0 amu
Tagaya who unearthed Japanese records, and
Arno Abendroth who delved into Luftwaffe
files; to Bruce Hoy of the Air Museum,
Papua, New Guinea; our fellow researchers
in Australia, T. R. Bennett and Frank
F. Smith; and to Dennis Glenn Cooper, Ira
Latour, Wayne Sneddon, Ralph P. Willet,
and William Carter.
It is also for Carl Bong, brother of
America's Ace of Aces; authors Kenn
C. Rust, Roger A. Freeman who opened his
extensive P-38 file to u , and the generous
Edward Jablon ki, along with Mitch
Mayborn, John Stanaway, Merle Olmsted,
T. R. Bennett, and Glenn Bavou ett. And for
Ken Sumney and EmeryJ. Vrana.
Copyright under the Berne Convention
All rights reserved. No part of this book
may be reproduced in any from without the
permis ion of Charle cribner's Sons.
De ign by Anthony Wirkus L lAD
The following was originally printed in the
us Army paper, tars and Stripes in 1943, and
was written by a B-17 gunner in North
Africa. It was forwarded by ex-Liberator
pilot, Fred Bowen, Canoga Park, California.
Oh, Hedy Lamarr is a beautiful gal
And Madeline Carroll is, too;
But you'll find, if you query, a different
Amongst any bomber crew.
For the loveliest thing of which one
could sing.
(This side of the Heavenly Gates)
is no blonde or brunette of the
Hollywood set,
But an escort of P-38s ...
Sure, we're braver than hell; on the
ground all is swell-
In the air it's a different story.
We sweat out our track through the
fighters andflak;
We're willing to split up the glory.
Well, they wouldn't reject us, so
Heaven protect us
And, until all this shooting abates,
Give us the courage to fight 'em - and
one other small item -
An escort of P-38s.
Prelude:The Company
BeloUl: The 10-passenger Model 10
Electra, introduced in 1934, cruised
at 1 Smph, and enjoyed immediate
uccess with airline operators
around the world.
. / Lockheed California Company
In February 1937 when me us Army Air
Corps asked America's struggling aircraft
industry to submit design proposals for a new
'interceptor', Lockheed Aircraft Corporation
was a small company. Its cash on hand was
approximately equal to one month's
operating expenses; and its sole product, the
twin-engined Electra, aimed at the feeder
airline market, could claim a production run
of Ie s than 80 machine during the preceding
three year.
Nevertheless, Lockheed made a bold
response to the Air Corps' request, submitting
drawings of an airplane 0 advanced that, if
built, it would demand answers to
engineering and aerodynamic questions for
which no answer yet exi ted. Lockheed
called the design 'Model 22'. The Air Corps
would call it the P-38 Lightning.
'Model 22' represented the 22nd design
proposed by Lockheed engineers since the
company was founded 11 years earlier by
Allen Lockheed, John Northrop, W. K. Jay
and Fred Keeler. Eight of those designs had
been produced for a total of277 airplanes, 196
of which were the wooden Lockheeds, such
as the famed Vega , Orions, and Altair .
In 1929 the company founders had sold out
to a Detroit group, which in turn allowed
Lockheed to lip into receivership a the
commercial aircraft market dwindled during
the Great Depres ion. Then, in 1932,
company a set were purcha ed for 40,000
by a group b ought together by investment
banker Robert E. Gross (who had previously
backed Lloyd Stearman in Wichita). The e
people originally included airline pioneer
Walter Varney, Lloyd Stearman (who had
old out to United Aircraft three years
earlier), Thomas F. Ryan III of Mid-
Continent Air Line, broker E. C. Walker,
and Mr and Mrs Cyril Chappellet.
Gros also brought in engineer Hall
Hibbard, who had begun his career with
Stearman in 1927, after earning his degree at
MIT. Hibbard was respon ible for
Above: Key executive who
provided the foundation for.
Lockheed Aircraft Cotporanon
were photographed together on
26July 1934. Left to right: Lloyd
tearman, Robert Gros , Cyril
Chappellet, and Hall Hibbard.
/ Locklzeed Califortlia Company
Left: Clarence L. 'Kelly' Johnson,
father of the P-38 (and many
advanced de ign to follow), was
discovered by Chief Engineer Hall
Hibbard at the Univer ity of
Michigan in 1933 when John on
wrote a report critical of the
Electra' initial tail design.
/ Lockheed Califortlia Company
Left: Final assembly of the XP-38
at Burbank. Lockheed security was
tight and photos forbidden, which
explains poor qualiry of this sneak
shot by Lt Ben Kelsey. / Ben Kelsey
0... 1171. H L HI. A 0 n AI.
Right: Sketches of ix designs
roughed out by KellyJohnson for
the 1937 Air Corp fighter
competition. Number four wa
/ Lockheed Califortlia Company
Below: Original patent drawing of
the XP-38, filed 27June 1939, Ii ts
Hall L. Hibbard and Clarence L.
John on a inventors.
/ Lockheed Aircraft Corporation
mounting aggressions. A Cyril Chappellet
later told it, 'If we hadn't had this Qapane e)
business, our factory would have been empty
and the British would hardly have dared to
place contracts with a concern that was not in
Although Lockheed had but five days'
notice to prepare for the British visit, a
combination of long hours and frantic effort
during that time produced a full-scale
wooden mock-up of a Model 14 converted to
a medium reconnaissance bomber. The
British liked it; and the Air Ministry soon
approved an order for 250 such machines,
which they designated the Hudson, at a total
cost of 25million. It wa the largest single
order ever received by any US aircraft
builder. It allowed Lockheed to market
4.25million in stock, and begin an expansion
programme that saw the company grow from
2,500 employees in January 1939, when the
XP-38 was delivered, to 50,000 workers in
January 1941, when the first YP-38 service
test machine was delivered.
It would be yet another year before P-38
production reached 150 units per month; and
although the Lightning entered combat quite
early, F-4 versions went to Australia in April
1942 and P-38E models were ent to the
Aleutians in June of that year, still another
year would pass before this unique and
deadly craft could honestly be called 'combat
ready'. But that didn't matter. The enemy
was upon us, and we were obliged to ftght
with what we had.
rporation) for its V-1710 project as early as
mber 1932; and when the Lockheed
del 22 drawings were completed in
bruary 1937, the Allison V-1710-C8 was
t a few weeks away from its first succe sful
t at 1,000hp. It was America's only
, liquid-cooled engine near production
tu .
ockheed Pre ident Robert Gross
r nally delivered the Model 22 drawing
Wright Field, Ohio, and, four month
I r, the Army indicated its approval of the
'gn. Air Corp Contract 9974, dated
June 1937, authorised construction of one
lane. It would be designated XP-38,
J a signed Air Corp erial number
onstruction of the XP-38 did not begin
til 13 months later, and delivery to the Air
rp was made on New Year' Day 1939.
I sembled, it wa loaded on three trucks,
ncealed by canvas, and taken from the
kheed plant at Burbank to March Field,
r Riverside, California.
eanwhile, events had conspired to place
heed in a more favourable financial
Irion. The Electra had been caled-up to a
place midwing transport for which the
n Air Line Company (Oai Nippon)
ed a timely order. It was timely because
craft were coming down the production
when a British purchasing commission
,ved in the US in April 1938, in search of
lane to belatedly bolster Britain'
nee in the face of Adolf Hitler's
developmen.t of the Model 10 Electra, which
fir. t flew In February 1934, and it was
HIbbard who first recognised the design
genius of the man who would become
Lockheed's most famous engineer Clarence
L. 'Kelly' Johnson. '
was doing graduate work at the
UnIVersIty of Michigan when a scale model
of the Electra was sent there for wind tunnel
tests early in 1933. When John on wrote a
report critical.of the Electra's tail as embly,
HIbbard was Impressed. He promptly hired
Johnson; and thus laid the cornerstone for
Lockheed's well known 'Skunk Works'.
Preliminary drawings of the Model 22
wer prepared in a matter of days starting
freehand sketches by Kelly The
AIr Corps wanted a craft for the 'tactical
mission of interception and attack of hostile
at high altitudes.' Specifics included a
aIr peed of 360mph at altitude, and
chmb to 20,000ft within six minutes.
figures imposed a power
reqUIrement that dictated the use of two
engines, since no single engine of sufficient
power then existed. Also inherent in the
request. was the obvious necessity of
emplOying Allison liquid-cooled engine.
The AIr Corps had become convinced several
years before that the high-hor epower liquid-
cooled engIne offered more possibilities with
turbo at high altitudes than did
the bIg aIr-cooled radial. Therefore, the
had contributed development funds to
Alltson (a small subsidiary of General Motors
, .
Below: Boldly designed, the XP-38
reached beyond the knowledge of
the best aerodynamicist . At right is
a Douglas B-1 Bolo b mber.
I Lockheed CompallY
Nine days after the XP-38 arrived at March
it was ready to fly; in the quiet, hazy
chtll of a Southern California winter
morning, the man who would fly it tood for
a time, silently looking at this ominously-
beautiful craft. Lt Benjamin S. Kelsey was
not a talkative man, but hi thought would
not be difficult to gue s. The XP-38
repre ented a quantum advance in fighter
aircraft design, and it urely po sessed ecrets,
perhap dangerous secrets.
Kel ey, however, was an experienced and
highly proficient pilot. He had received his
commission in the US Army Air Corps 10
years before (promotion in rank wa
agonisingly slow in the US Army during the
twenties and thirties), and his record was such
that it had earned him the job of XP-38
project officer.
. Th<: twin Allisons were grumbling
unpatJ_ently, and at last Kelsey climbed
aboard. The XP-38's cockpit was a familiar
place, because he had spent countless hours
there during construction and assembly of the
big fighter.
It was indeed big for a fighter'" airplane. Its
wings panned 52ft, and its weight exceeded
15,OOOlb. Its Allison V-1710-C9 engines,
V-171D--ll and -15 Air Corps designations,
were rated at 1,090hp at 13,200ft. The left one
rotated cl.ockwi e. (a viewed from the rear),
and the right engine coumer-clockwise, thus
countering the effects of torque and the
piralling propeller wa h.
Now, General (retired) Ben S. Kelsey
picks up the story and recalls for us the
significant even in the XP-3 ' short life:
'During the taxi tests, everything seemed to
work well except the wheel brakes. We
didn't have an airplane then that landed as
fast as the XP-38, and of cour e it wa
necessary to establish that its brake were
adquate. On a high-speed taxi run, I ran out
of runway after the wheels expanded with
The term 'interceptor', along with the manner in
whIch XP-38 were originally drawn,
were largely dictated by the need to present it as a
purely defen weapon; the only kind the US
Congres was lIkely to approve or pay for at the time.
II I I t braking power. I went into a
I hut dtdn't damage the airplane.
u d a hand braking system finally,
put together from a cylinder taken
orthrop A-17, and an extra
oil tank. The idea behind the extra
w to allow the pilot to pump more oil
the y tern after he ran out of brake.
nabled me to keep the pressure up, but
u cd brakes, they would be gone after
) normal landing. Therefore, the
I u technique with this prototype
l r ft would be to land it without wheel
fhi called for dragging-in low, in landing
mfiguration, and using ju t enough power
I hold the plane lightly above tall. Then,
hop power as soon as the runway lid under
h . nose. Thi is what led to loss of the plane
tcr at Mitchel Field; I'll return to that in a
n the first test flight, which was delayed
mtil 27 January because of the braking
r blem, I had a Ford Trimotor a a chase
pI ne, which may help put this in per pective
tllnewi e. Just after I lifted the wheel, the
plane developed a very evere flutter, wing
Hutter. It wasn't mild; the amplitude of the
tlutter at the tip was of the order of two or
hree feet. There wasn't enough runway left
t land on and, looking at the wing and
wondering what to do, I saw a piece of the
flap bouncing up, 0 I retracted the flaps;
ockheed you ee, had aid to use half-flaps
or take-off. As the Fowler flaps came back
mto the wing, the flutter stopped.
'I landed without using the flaps, and when
we made an inspection we found that three of
the four aluminium flap-control link rods had
broken, allowing the flaps to run out to the
end of their travel and whip up over
the trailing edge. These were replaced
with teel link rods, which solved that
'Later, we found that this flap arrangement
was ubject to buffeting in the take-off speed
range at the half-flap setting, and also at the
full-flap etting during landing approach at
minimum peed. We soon discovered that
this resulted from insufficient tolerance at the
flaps' leading edge which was pinching-off
the airflow. Kelly Johnson cut holes in the
kin of the well the flaps went into and solved
this on the YP models that followed. But,
meanwhile, it meant we had to cut the
engines to get the flap down prior to
landing. It was a bad way of doing things,
but did allow us to go forward with the
ini tial tests.
'The e tests, during the next couple of
weeks, which totalled about five hours' flying
time, did e tablish that the plane handled
well, and that its performance would easily
fall within the parameters we had calculated.
We had only minor problems. There was no
trouble with the control; rigging wa
excellent, and the engines performed well,
except for some concern that the early turbo
supercharger systems would not produce
enough carburettor heat at low rpm to
combat carburettor ice under some
Below: The XP-3 wa powered
with Alii on V-171D-11/15 (C-9)
engines rated at 1,000hp each at
13,200ft. It was easily capable of
400mph above 15,OOOft. It was first
Rown 9January 1939, with Lt
Benjamin . Kelsey at the contr Is.
I Lockheed Aircraft Corporatioll
230101 SlAI LESS
223557 SCOOp
Above: Turbo supercharger system,
beginning with the P-38J model ,
moved inter-eoolers beneath the
engines (increasing internal fuel by
llOgal). Thi improved
supercharger efficiency, but
ometimes allowed engine oil to
over-eool if not properly monitored
by the pilot.
NO W-4868825
'And within 60 days, that's 60 days mind
you, Lockheed had a contract for service-test
quantities of the YP-38. There's no way in
the world that Lockheed could have received
such a contract that soon, had the XP-38
remained in existence, because then it would
have been necessary to validate all it
performance e timates, write-in a lot of
specific, and probably wait while it was
returned to the factory for modifications.
Therefore, we significantly cut time between
the X model and the Y models as a result of
losing the first one. The same thing happened
when we lost the first B-17 at Wright Field.
It was tragic; but not having the prototype to
nit-pick for a contract, which you must do,
you simply go ahead with a design that has
already demonstrated certain basic things
before its loss.'
The order for 13 service-test YP-38s was Air
Corps Contract 12523, dated 27 April 1939.
However, the first YP-38 did not fly until
16 September 1940, and the last one was not
delivered until eight months after that.
During those critical 25 months, the 'course
of human events' was altered for generations
(245436 R H)
"'0 r iR or
engines failed to respond. Both
ntinued to idle nicely; but wouldn't
lerate. I was low and low on final
roach. Without power, there was nothing
uld do to add a single inch to that
roach. I struck the ground short of the
nway. The aircraft was a total loss; I was
'Tom McRae and hi crew from Alli on
t d nine possible causes for the engine'
llure to accelerate. I had eliminated
c: of them prior to the crash, fuel
I ctor switch, boost pumps, etc, and
four remaining possibilitie were
Iminated by re-design of the fuel and
rburettor system on the follow-on YP
dels ...
'The next day, I was in Wa hington to
plain why I'd busted our new airplane.
I neral Arnold Ii tened to my account, then
k me around with him to the Secretary of
ar, and to the Bureau of the Budget; and I
ue s we went to four or five top level
pie. In each case, the General would ax
) me, "Kel ey, tell him about that new '38. '
I'd tell each how fast it was, how nicely it
h ndled, and so on.
Hughe 's record. But in terms of flying time,
we could do considerably better because his
had been a non-stop flight. It was ju t a
question of whether we wanted to go to
Mitchel and back, or call it a day with the
planned delivery.
'Then, in hi ort of brusque way, General
Arnold aid, "Go ahead, Kel ey. Take it."
'I averaged 360mph true air speed, and it
was clear to me that the XP-38 would easily
do 400mph if pressed. My flying time
between March and Mitchel Fields was 7hr
'Descending into Mitchel, I think I
probably picked up carburettor ice. This was
a problem that had not been olved, and the
early B-17s had the arne trouble. There
simply wasn't enough heat available via the
superchargers at low rpm to handle
carburettor ice. I had to throttle way back to
lower the flaps; and then, since I was faced
with a landing without wheel brake, it wa
necessary to "drag it in" under power at low
speed. But the flap problem and the brake
problem were just waiting for one additional
problem, lack of power at a critical time, to
produce disaster. As I attempted to ease-in
'Now, there has been a lot of comment
about us losing the XP-38 at Mitchel Field
after a transcontinental flight; but the point
was that General Arnold, Chief of Air Corps,
was being very hard pressed in Washington
about such things as record-breaking German
airplane, and the new British Spitfire ...
Since it was apparent that, when we
delivered the XP-38 from March to Wright
Field in Ohio, we'd be flying it at it normal
cruising speed, substantially the same speed as
Howard Hughes' cross-country record in a
specially designed racer, we fel t that this
would give General Arnold some impressive
figures to use in his appropriations battle with
the Congress ...
'I was ordered to deliver the plane to
Wright Field on 11 February 1939 .... it wa
strictly a delivery flight at standard cruise ... I
landed at Amarillo 2hr 48min after leaving
March Field. Another 2hr 45min put me
down at Wright Field.
'When I climbed from the plane at Wright
Field, there was a discussion concerning the
time I had made, and it wa noted that, with
the time on the ground at both Amarillo and
Dayton, there was no possibility of bettering
Above: Supercharger inter-eooler
formed part of the wings'leading
edges in early P-3 and were a
continuing source of trouble.
Above: XP-38 is refuelled at Wright
Field pending decision by General
Arnold as to the feasibility of
extending Kelsey's cross-country
dash to Mitchel Field, New York.
Right: General Henry H. 'Hap'
Arnold, Chief of Air Corps, orders
Lt Kelsey to continue flight to
Mitchel Field. I &n Kelsey
me. Still, another nine months would
before Lockheed achieved anythin:;
nbling mass production of the P-38.
I production for 1941 would amount to
units (exclusive of the YPs), none of
I h were fit for combat. Meanwhile,
\' r te orders piled up. Britain ordered 667
in March 1940; and the US Army Air
rp contracted for 673 five months later.
lthough we may tend to fault Lockheed
taking so long to get the P-38 into
ningful production, any of us who are
enough to recall tho e fearful times, the
II u ions, the shortages, the frustrating
ncy to do a thousand things at once to f111
1 U and pressing needs, will be able to put
I, and other 'failures' into proper
r pective. Attempting to arm ourselves and
nd our freedom, we demanded
uction miracles of our often poorly
nded industries to make up for 20 years of
mplacency, incompetency, and wishful
mking on the part of our leaders.
he US Army Air Corps became the US Army Air
ree on 20June 1941.
Lockheed, as the rest of the US, British,
and Commonwealth industry, did the best it
could with what it had when there wasn't
n o ~ h of anything, from metal to money to
manpower, to go around; and did so
according to assigned priorities. In addition to
P-38s, Lockheed was building Venturas,
Hudsons, and Boeing B-17s in large numbers.
Meanwhile, the financing of plant
expansion programmes in America had
to depend upon private money sources
until the US Congress at last enacted the
Lend - Lease Bill (HR 1776) on 11 March
There were other factors that slowed P-38
development and production. The YP-38's
internal structure was practically designed
from scratch, because the XP-38 had been
handbuilt by the 'cut and fit' method, and its
airframe did not lend itself to efficient mass
production techniques. The Army also
demanded that the YP models be at least
1,SOOlb lighter than the experimental model.
Finally, there were some important
aerodynamic lessons to be learned, and a
number of detail improvements to be made
before the P-38's true potential could be
Be!OlV: Fir t YP-38 made its Jl1aiden
flight 16 eptember 1940, with
Lockheed Chief Pilot Marshall
Headle at the control. Counter-
rotating props rurned olltwards.
Propeller cuffs were larer removed.
Note lack of wing-fuselage fillet.
I Lockheed Aircraft Corporation
Righr: The YP-38 was fmed with
Allison V-1710-27/29 (F-2) engine
rated at l,lS0hp. Elevator rna s
balance were added later as a
solution for tail buffeting at high
speed. Wing fillets olved that, but
the mass balance remained on all
sub equent P-38s.
I Lockheed AircraJr Corporarion
Below: A YP-38 emerges from a
cocoon of Hudson at the Lockheed
factory into an early spring
morning in 1941.
I Lockheed California COInpatlY
tapped. It all took rime, and time was the
most precious commodity of all.
The first YP-38 completed, In 39-689, was
retained at the factory, although its USAAF
record card reveals that it was flown but 23
hours during it 14 month of existence.
Clearly, Lockheed left much of the YP-38
test flying to the Army pilots. Delivery of the
remaining dozen YP-38s to the Army was
completed in May 1941; and it was then that
the spectre of compressibility first showed
Major Signa A. Gilkie experienced it fir t.
He took YP-38 sin 39-694 well above
3O,00Oft then entered a dive. A the airspeed
needle swung past 320mph, ornewhere
around Soomph true air speed at that altitude,
the airplane's tail began to buffet everely.
Then, as the dive continued, the craft became
progre sively no e-heavy, increa ing its dive
angle to near vertical, while the control yoke
oscillated rimy and defied Gilkie's utmost
efforts to pull it back and effect recovery.
Unwilling to bailout and 10 e the plane to
thi strange and frightening force, the major
tried the only mall remedy left to him. He
cranked-in 'no e-up' elevator trim.
At flfSt, the elevator trim tab seemed
ineffective; but a the plane entered denser air
below 18,000ft, the no e began to swing
upward. Full control quickly returned, and
seconds later, Major Gilkie found himself
straight and level at 7,000ft.
He had also found the two major
aerodynamic problems that represented the
price Lockheed must pay for pioneering with
LeJr: The Allison V-171O F-serie
engine which powered the YP-3 s
and all production models of the
Lightning wa rated at l,lSOhp in
the YP ; l,32Shp In the P-38s, and
was up to l,425hp (l,600hp war
emer.gency) in the P-38J models.
I All,son Division, GM
Below: Dr anfi rd A. Moss
(tight), with Brig-GenJame H
o olittle and the General Electric
Type B turbo supercharger which
was fitted to engines in the
BOO-1,400hp range.
I General Elecrric Company
Below: Instrument panel of the
a high-speed high-altitude fighter. He had
encountered in quick succession, a dangerous
tail buffeting, followed by aerodynamic
It took a while to figure out that the two
problems were not related. Most Lockheed
engineers believed that there was but one
problem, an improperly balanced tail. This
resulted in the installation of external mass
balance weights on the elevator (which
remained on all subsequent P-38s, although
Kelly Johnson has always maintained that
they were useless). Other 'fixes' were
applied, including trengthening of the
horizontal stabili er and increa ed tension of
the elevator control cables; but the cause of
the tail flutter wa i olated a month later by
wina tunnel te ts at Cal Tech which showed
that there had been nothing wrong with the
tail in the first place. Under certain extreme
conditions, it was simply being buffeted by a
strongly turbulent airflow created at the sharp
junctures where wing and fu elage were
joined. About 40 wing fillet hapes were tried
until one was found that properly smoothed-
out. the airflow over the tail in all flight
Although the tail flutter problem was thus
rather quickly eliminated, the little
understood phenomenon of compre sibility
remained. Late that ummer, flying the first
YP-38, Lockheed test pilots Jimmy Mattern,
Ralph Virden and Milo Burcham cautiou ly
began nibbling at high-altitude dives,
limiting themselve to an indicated air speed
of 295mph above 30,OOOft. Then, on
4 November, Virden took this airplane aloft
for a serie of dives, working upward from
15,OOOft. The 'number one' YP-38, which
had by then accumulated slightly over 23
hours' flight time, had been fitted with new
spring loaded servo tabs on the elevator's
The 1 t Pursuit Group
receIved the fir t production P-38s.
in mid-1941. Only 29 of the first
model were built. I U AF
Left: Built concurrently with first
P-38s. though not
deltvered to the Air Corp until a
year later. was the pressurised
XP-38A..It was not developed.
I Lockheed Califomia Compally
Below left: The Lockheed XP-49
was another pressuri ed version of
the P-38, powered with
Continental XIV-1430
Inverted engine ofl.350hp. It was
Lockheed Model 522; In 40-3055.
I Mitch Maybom
Below: Lockheed' wordfish' wa a
greatly modified P-38E, sin
41-2048. used for in-Right research
oflaminar-Row airfoil and the
tudy of boundary layer air control.
I Mitch Mayborn
in October 1942, that a P-38 scale model was
at last accepted for high-speed wind tunnel
tests at NACA's Ames Laboratory. This was,
perhaps, the ingle most significant lapse in P-
38 development. Since Maj Gilkie's dive had
first revealed the seriousness of the problem,
17 irretrievable months had slipped by.
However, once the engineers could watch
the shock waves form on the P-38 wing at
Mach .67, giving them visible evidence of its
effect on the airplane, the problem was at
least positively defined, if not solved. They
discovered that air pas ing over the curved
parts of the model increased in velocity by as
much as 40 per cent. This meant that the
airflow over the wing (this particular wing)
could reach the speed of ound when the
airplane's true air speed was but 67 per cent of
the speed of sound; and the shock wave
which then followed rendered the airplane
Actually, several things could be done to
rai e the P-38s critical Mach number (the
Spitfire hit compressibility at Mach .83,
primarily because of its very thin wing). A
new wing would do it; and a stretched pilot's
nacelle would also help. But at the end of
1942, with production of the P-38G at last
approaching 150 units per month, and the
USAAF desperate for more, major design
ling edge (company sources today don't
ree as to whether there was one or two
I h tabs) which, acting opposite to elevator
flection when the control yoke force
hed 30lbs would substantially add to the
It t' muscle in elevator control: in other
rd, elevator boost aerodynamically
III uced.
Virden successfully completed the lower
Ititude dives, reaching true air speeds of up
I 535mph; but it i not known just how high
h went to begin his final dive. What is
n wn is that the new tabs apparently
rked so well that Virden pulled the tail ofT
the airplane at about 3,OOOft in a dive
r overy, and died in the ensuing crash.
The los of this airplane and pilot
tabli hed little, except that the P-38 wasn't
ing to be 'muscled out' of its
mpressibility problem.
Meanwhile, a total of 68 planes had been
uilt, not counting the XP and YP models:
P-38s, 36 P-38D, and three P-38E.
1 eli very of the production models had begun
In June and by the end of October 1941,
elivery of the P-38E had tarted.
Only 210 P-38Es were built during the
n xt five month, then the P-38F entered
production in April 1942. But it was not until
P-38Gs were coming ofT the production line
Right: The P-3 E contained many
detail change, plu a sWitch to the
20mm cannon in place of a 37mm;
Curtis electric prop, new internal
operating sy terns, and e-wheel
retract-arm moved behmd nose-
wheel trut. orne Es saw combat in
the Aleutian and, as F-4s, in New
I American Aviatioll Hisrorical Sociery
Ballom right: Another of the original
29 production machine, sin 40-744,
had superchargers removed and an
extra cockpit installedm port bo m
as an experimental tramer. I U AF
Above: One of 36 P-38Ds built
takes-off from Burbank, September
I American Aviation Historical ociery
ockhccd XP-5K (;/";11
haJ p.1I1 of7uft. allJ \\ as
I with a pm of
V '420 engines (an
'I'H'd rt'\ulllng fTom
'1' of I"" V-lilt"], and
t \\ a plalllled;l 1"'0
(, lItrlllled rune! , L'al h
I ralt 0(, Sill gUll , plll\
llJl C,lIl1l0ll\ III !he 11<"<'- It
(IJulle IlJ44.
rh \\'l'rL' !h, tif\!
the h.ll .Illtkd to till'
Ilr. tgllLL I , ..11
June 1944. By that time, other important
unprovements had accrued, hydraulic aileron
boost, better cockpit heating, a flat, bullet-
proof win.dscreen, manoeuvring flaps (a
control which allowed a quick, eight-degree
ion of the Fowler flaps), an adequate
mter-cooler system, and improved engines
with supercharging automatically controlled;
that wa when one could say that the P-38
ready to fulEI its long-
awaIted promIse; that was when it could be
accurately described as a long-legged, high-
altitude combat aircraft of truly fearsome
that gave up nothing to any
enemy aIrcraft anywhere in any flight
The. potential had been there all the
whl!e. Had It been exploited, say, two years
earher, a reasonable hope, since in fact the
P-38 required seven years to mature, this
rugged and versatile fighter (with a bomb
capacity equalling that of the B-25 Mitchell)
may indeed have greatly altered the course of
W.orld War II. However, there is ample
eVIdence that the P-38 provided the means for
a substantial altering of that conflict, as it was.
Ahove: The Hand J model
Lightnings used the ame engines,
V-1710-89191 (Alli on F-15 series).
Flat, bullet-proof winds reen
appeared on the P-38J-l0 (ab vel.
I Lockheed Aircraft Corpora/ion
Fact ry-fre h P-38J-15
during its production test Aight. A
t tal of1,4ooJ-15s were built, and
350J-205 followed before the J-25
model at la t appeared with dive
brakes and aileron bo st.
I &/"'ardjaiJIonski
danger of exceeding the airplane's structural
design limit, ontrol remained.
Alth ugh dive brake were installed on a
te t machine in late February 1943, and Ben
Kel ey (by then a colonel) flew the craft and
appr ved the devi e early in April,
Lockheed w unable t inc rporate this
important m dift ti n int P-3 a embly
line for an ther 14 m nth . B that time,
5,300 P-3 had b n built, m re than half of
the ultimate t tal.
In a taped intervi w,
us that the dive brak
were hydraulicall c ntr
system failed n hi fin I div
compres ibility, and pull d
airplane attemptin r r . K I ery bailed
out, sustaining a br k n nkl. The General
described in detail th h drauli y tern
malfunction. There w, n eat ushion
involved as had been previou Iy rep rted. On
production aircraft, the dive brake were
electrically activated.
The dive brake modification appeared on
the last 210 J models, the P-38J-25 , produced
change, with the attendant re-tooling,
testing, etc, were out of the question.
America wa fighting for her life, and no
time remained to exploit this hard won
knowledge with the P-38. Production wa
This urgent need, however, did not
preclude a modification of another kind. If
they couldn't push back compressibility,
Lockheed engineers decided, they could at
least stay out of it. Therefore, a dive brake
was devised; one that could be 'bolted on' to
the airframe without slowing production.
This modification took the form of a pair of
accordian-type flaps attached to the main
wing beam (spar), and positioned just beyond
each engine boom, 30 per cent of the chord
behind the wing's leading edge. When not in
use these flaps retracted flush into the bottom
of the wing. They were electrically activated
by means of a trigger on the control wheel.
The dive brake were effective. It was till
possible to find compre sibility at dive angle
exceeding 60 degree from very high
altitudes; but despite buffeting, and the
Below: P-38E outdoor production
line at Lockheed on 10 October
1941. I Lockheed Califortlia Company
Above: The P-38F-1 appeared in
April 1942, and featured new pylon
rack beneath the centre wing
ection designed to carry a ton of
external ordnance. Maximum peed
wa 395mph at 25,OOOft with a
combat weight of 15,900lb. ervice
ceiling was 39,OOOft,
/ Mitch Mayborn
Righr: A P-38F-5 with a Spitfire
Mkn reveals difference in SIze. The
'Spit' pos e ed but forty per cent of
the P-38 weight, but lacked the
Lightning' great versatility.
/ Merle Olmsred Collecrion
&rtom righr: Recon photo reveal a
dozen Japanese 'Rufes' (Nakajima
A6M2-N f10atplane fighter) in
Ki ka Harbor. / U AF
We shall probably never know all the facts
attendant to Britain's order for 667 P-38s,
approved by the Air Ministry in March 1940.
The first 143 of the e craft, designated
Lightning Mkls, were 0 clearly unfit for
combat that one wonders if Lockheed had to
grit its corporate teeth and look the other
way while building them. More to the
point, is the question of why Britain should
place such an order, because the Lightning I
was without effective armour, had no
superchargers, and its eariy model Allisons of
1,090hp rotated in the same direction. Thu
robbed of its primary design function, that of
high-altitude fighter, the big and relatively
heavy Lightning could hardly promise
performance advantage over aircraft the
RAF already possessed. The balance of the
order, for P-38F-13, -15, and G-15 models,
seemed more plausible, although those
machines were not scheduled for delivery
until mid 1943.
Therefore why, two months before France
fell, and four months before the Battle of
Britain, did the Air Ministry approve a large
order (actually totalling more airplane than
all the Spitfires and Hurricanes then possessed
by Fighter Command) for an untested
American fighter due for delivery up to three
years later? Perhaps it was a prudent just-in-
case-we-need-it act. But it is at least possible
that it represented a modicum of collusion
between General Arnold and his friends in
the Air Ministry.
Suppo e that General Arnold, desperate to
circumvent the myopic US Congress and get
combat aircraft production moving in the
US, had said to the proper British authorities,
'Look here, fellows' (or words to that effect),
'we've got a 2,OOOhp fighter of great
potential, but the program is barely alive. So
far, I've been able to get money for only 65 of
them. Somehow, I've got to get a real
production line going and develop this
airplane; it could prove very important to
both of us a bit further down the turnpike.
Now, if you will step in and place a large
order for this craft immediately, that will set
the program moving. Then, I'll promise to
take you off the hook when the airplanes are
ready for delivery if you don't want them.'
True, it is only a latter-day theory. But it
could have happened that way. General
Arnold cut a good many corners in an
attempt to build US airpower, and we know
that he employed a deception or two in his
campaign to get the B-17.
Whether or not the British order actually
cut P-38 development time and allowed
Lockheed to achieve mass production' sooner
Below: The 54th Fighter Squadron,
equipped with P-38E , was ba ed at
Adak in the Aleutian early in 1943.
Right: The face of the enemy;
Japanese Naval airmen from film
captured at Attu./ USAF
&Iow: Capt George Laven (right),
and Lt Stanley Lang of the 54th F .
Laven was one of two P-38 pilot to
fly the first fighter strike against
Kiska on 3 September 1942, and
later fought in the SW Pacific.
Far right, top: Capt Morgan Giffin
briefs 54th FS pilot prior to a
fighter sweep over the Aleutian.
/ AF
Far right, bottom: Lightning F-5s in
foreground have done their job and
now stay at home while P-38s
accompany Liberators on a raid to
Attu. / U AF
than would have otherwise been pos ible, is
difficult to determine. On paper, at least, the
British order accelerated the P-38 programme
by five months, because it was not until
August 1940 that the USAAF at la t ordered
in quantity, signing a contract for 673
In ;:ny case, only a handful of Lightning
MkIs was delivered to the RAF. British
pilots flew three of them in a test programme,
beginning in April 1942, but returned them
to American hand as soon as they decently
could, saying that the RAF would muddle
along without the Lightning.
The Lightning MkIs still in America,
apparently 138 ot them, were accepted by the
USAAF, ent to the Dalla Modification
Centre for new engines, then went to
Arizona as rainers. The P-38F-13 and -ISs,
and P-38G-15s (Lightning MkII), 524
machine in all, were also accepted by the
USAAF and went to us fighter groups.
The name 'Lightning', be t wed upon the
P-38s by the Briti h in March 1940, was
adopted by Lockheed, and the Lightning it
was ever after.
Concurrent with production f the P-322s
was the P-38E. The E model w fitted with
Allison V-1710-27 and -29 engine of 1,150hp
(sea level at 3,OOOrpm) which rotated
outward from the pilot' n elle. It had
improved radios, a low pre ure oxygen
system, and a number of other detail
improvements over the D model, and though
it was not regarded as a combat-ready fighter,
it did see action in the Aleutians, where the
principal enemy was the weather.
Early in June 1942 the Japanese landed
more than 3,000 soldiers on the Aleutian
Islands of Attu and Kiska in a diversionary
thrust primarily designed to lure the
weakened US Navy into a showdown battle
in the North Pacific. Admiral Nimitz refused
to take the bait, however, and instead dry-
gulched the vastly superior Japanese main
force north of Midway, so grievously
damaging the Japanese Navy that it never
recovered. However, the Japanese presence in
the Aleutians posed a threat (albeit of
unknown dimensions) to Alaska and the
North American Continent. The enemy
could not be allowed to remain there.
Therefore, a squadron of P-38s was hastily
put together to join the 11th and 18th Fighter
Squadrons (FS)* of the 28th Composite
Group which had been in Alaska since the
preceding December, when the Japanese
attack on Pearl Harbor thrust the United
States into World War II. The 11th and 18th
were equipped with P-40 and P-39s, neither
of which possessed sufficient range to carry
the fight to the Nipponese at the extreme end
of the 1,200 mile Aleutian Archipelago.
The P-40s had seen action when Japanese
carrier-based aircraft attacked the US Naval
In May 1942, all US pursuit groups were re-designated
'fighter groups'. and the pursuit squadrons became
'fighter squadrons.' Normally, three fighter squadrons
comprised a fighter group.
ba e at Dutch Harbor. Flying from a
primitive airstrip at Otter Point on Umnak
Island, 80 miles west of Dutch Harbor in the
Eastern Aleutians, the P-40 shot down two
'Nates' (Nakajima Ki-43, Type 97) in an air
battle there during the Attu and Kiska
landing on 7June.
Throughout the ummer, however, the
Japanese had appeared content to dig-in on
Kiska, some 850 miles to the west of Umnak,
and on Attu, 225 miles beyond Kiska, and
forego further offen ive action.
A fir t-hand account of P-38 operation in
the Aleutians is provided to us by Col (ret)
George Laven, now a sales and contract
officer for McDonnell Douglas:
'I wa in the 54th FS, which was sent from
McChord Field, Washington, to Anchorage,
Alaska, in the ummer of 1942. The 54th had
moved to Cold Bay, on the tip of the Alaskan
Peninsula, when I arrived with two other
P-38 pilots.
'Our fir t offensive mission came on
3 September, when Lt Victor E. Walton and
I volunteered to hit Kiska from our trip on
Umnak Island. On paper, it wasn't po ible,
and four other P-38 pilot who also
volunteered had to turn back due to lack of
fuel. Our P-38Es had 230 gallons (US) of
internal fuel, and a normal consumption of 59
gallon per hour at 75 per cent power and
25,000ft. But Walton and I extended our
range by holding high manifold pressure with
low rpm settings, a crui e-control method
later taught to US pilots In the Pacific by
Charles Lindbergh.
'We also believed that we had invented
skip-bombing with our P-38s, but were later
told that P-40 pilots had employed this tactic
months earlier in the Philippines.
'We went after Japanese shipping at ten
feet. On that first mission, I chose as a target a
10,000-ton Japane e freighter in Kiska
Harbor; but our bomb fuses were often bad
in those days, and my bomb went right
through the ship without exploding. Walton
and I approached Kiska from the northwest,
screened by the 1,200ft ridges along that
coast, at 14.32hrs. I crossed under Walton as
we dropped down to the harbour to shoot-up
a four engine Kawasaki Ki-97 flying boat,
and then banked sharply left again to strafe
the anti-aircraft guns which were thick along
the north rim of the harbour. I then cut across
the mouth of the harbour and left the area,
heading out to sea in a outheasterly
direction. Walton made a 180-degree turn
over the docks on the harbour's south rim, hit
a transport ship in the centre of the harbour,
and went out the way we came in. We had
both 20mm and .50-calibre ammunition
remaining, but felt that fuel was too critical
to warrant more pas es. We made it back to
Umnak with a few gallons to spare.
'All but 10 of the original 31 P-38 pilots in
the Aleutians were killed there, most of them
lost to the weather. In one case, four of us
were flying the wing of a B-17 to a strip we
Above: Lt Herbert Hasenfu rode a
pair of tiger sharks into combat
over the Aleutians. / Francis J. Pope
Top left: When it wa n't ice and
fog, it was rain and fog in the
Aleutian. / Mitch Mayborn
Centre left: Lt Richard Bracey had
35 hours in P-38s when he went to
the Aleutian, but logged 250 hour
in the world's wor t flying weather.
All but 10 of the original 31 pilots
of the 54th FS were killed in the
Aleutians. / Richard Bracey
Bouo/tl left: The .50 calibre gun
normaJl y carried 300 rounds of
ammunition each; the 20mrn
cannon was fed by a 15G-round
drum. / U AF
Below: Capt Frank Shearin (left)
and Lt John Geddes of the 54th FS
with P-38H-5 at Adak, September
1943. / Col (ret) Frank lJearin
Left: The enemy also suffered from
the Aleutian weather.
Reconnaissance photo shows four
Aoatplanes blown ashore and
damaged by high winds at Attu.
had opened at Adak, about 375 miles west of
Umnak. We were a very few feet off the
water, and the fog was so bad that the
number one man could not see numbers three
and four of his formation. When we got to
Adak, three and four were gone, they had hit
a rock sticking out of the water. You can
guess how close numbers one and two came
to it. A number of P-38 pilots shot down in
the water were alive when they hit; but we
almost never recovered one alive. The frigid
water killed them within minutes.
'In the fall of 1942, since we were not
getting replacement aircraft, damaged but
flyable P-38s were to fly back to the US for
repairs or replacement. Four of us left
Amchitka, where our people had built an
airstrip only 75 miles from Kiska, and I was
the only one who made it. We all got as far as
Annette Island, but en route from there to
Paine Field at Everett, Washington, we hit
fog and two of our companions were never
heard from again. The third got to Paine, but
his hydraulic system was out, and by the time
he got his wheels pumped down the fteld had
socked-in. He landed long; skidded off the
end of the runway. He survived, but the
airplane didn't. I landed on Vancouver Island,
which I found quite by chance. I then flew on
to San Antonio where my plane was to be
repaired; I had no flaps, having had them shot
out. When my plane was fiXed, I returned to
Anchorage alone, then down the island chain
to Amchitka on the wing of a B-24.
'The P-38 was the only airplane for that
place, and also for the Southwest Pacific,
because of its twin engines over water.
Having two fans instead of one made a world
of difference. The machine I flew in the
Below: The Japane e sent hundreds
of incendiary devices across the
North PacifiC by free balloon
during World War II in an attempt
to start forest fires in Western
Canada and the US Northwest.
P-38s hot down this one over the
ocean. / USAF
Two months after Attu was recaptured,
American troops invaded Kiska, only to
'We had two rules for dog-fighting the
"Zeros" (Mitsubi hi A6Ml-8, Type 0, carrier-
based fighter, Hamp/Zeke). Keep speed
minimum of 300mph and always break hard-
right and up. The Japanese fighters were
over-powered for their airframes, and torque
did not permit a tight, high-speed right turn.
'Speaking of performance, 1returned to the
United States in September 1943, and while
in the pilots' lounge at Santa Maria Air Base,
California, 1 overheard three P-38 student
pilots scorning this airplane. They were
saying the P-38 would not operate above
25,Oooft , or if it would, their instructor
would not take them. 1 found out their
instructor's name and cleared a flight with the
'My briefing was short and to the point:
"Were going to take this four ship formation
up and we will continue to climb until one of
you say 'Uncle.' " With that we took off. At
42,80Oft indicating on the altimeter, 1heard a
garbled "uncle" being transmitted by a throat
mike. 100 per cent oxygen under pressure
made it difficult to speak at high altitude. The
formation was climbing at 500ft per minute
when the climb was terminated. That flight
convinced them that the P-38 was a high-
altitude aircraft.
'I later flew P-51s for about 250 hours.
rate the P-38 as the best overall fighter.'
In September 1942 the three fighter squadrons
in the Aleutians, 54th, 11th, and 18th, were
formed into the 343rd Fighter Group of the
11th Air Force. At that time, RCAF fighter
squadron in Alaska, No 14 and 111, flying
P-40 Kittyhawks, returned to Canada.
Throughout the winter and early spring
(though it is hard to tell the difference in the
Aleutians) the American fighters flew
bombing and strafing missions to Attu and
Kiska. Then on 11 May 1943 a US Navy task
force put ashore on Attu the US Army's
Seventh Division, and after fighting for
nearly three weeks among the icy, fog-
shrouded crags, the Seventh overwhelmed
the 2,300 Japanese there, aided, as weather
permitted, by the 11th Air Force.
Col (ret) Frank Shearin Jr, now executive
vice lresident of the Happy Bear Corp,
joine the 54th FS at Adak in December
1942, moving up to Amchitka when that strip
was completed in March 1943:
'During the fighting on Attu, we tried to
keep eight P-38s over the target during
daylight hours. We carried one 500 or
1,0001b bomb, and one 165gal external fuel
tank. On 24 May Group Commander Lt-Col
Watt was shot down while attacking a
formation of "Bettys" (Mitsubishi G4Ml,
Type 1 twin-engined attack/bomber). Only
three of a flight of25 "Bettys" returned home.
John Gettt:s was also shot down, but
was picked up uninjured by a Navy
Top: ki-equipped p- F and
P-3 ~ (above) were tested in
Alaska by Lt Randy Acord, but skis
were not ad pted for general u e.
/ American Aviation His/oricol ocie/y
Above: Mo t Lightning in the
Aleutians were I st to weather-
related accidents. These are salvaged
P-38L-S at hemya late in the war.
/ AF
Left: Lightning F-SB-1 (P-38G-IO)
at Meeks Field, Iceland, 9 Augu t
1943. Chalked n t on prop blade
read: 'OillOqts, g S3Sgal'
/ AF
ri J umb r 41-2076.
m wn F-100 that
I commanded George
had the same last four
Aleutian w
Year larer
1 had wh n
Air Force Ba e,
number .'
The American base on Adak, and later on
Amchitka, allowed US pilots to strike the
enemy as often as weather permitted. A
maximum effort strike on Kiska on 14
September- 1942 consisted of 12 B-24 , 14
P-38s, and 14 P-39s. Two P-38 were I t
when they collided over the target area.
These were piloted by Lt Crowe and Maj r
Jackson, the squadron's fir t c mmandin
Lt-Col (ret) Richard Bracey, wh n w
owns a lumber mill in Thomasville, eorgia,
was another 54th pilot:
'I went directly from flying school to a P-38
training group at Paine Field in August 1942.
1had 35 hours in P-38s when 1was ent to the
Aleutians that November. There, 1 logged
about 250 hours, mostly in fog. 1tangled with
"Rufe" type "Zeros" (Nakajima A6M2-N
Type 2, Model 12 - fighter floatplane),
weather, and flak ...
'The best thing 1 remember about the P-38
is that it brought me home single-
engine three times. It had a low stalling
speed, no t6rque, and five fixed guns
straight ahead. 1 flew the P-51 and it
was a fine airplane; but give me a '38
discover that the enemy had slipped away in
the fog.
In October 1943 the 54th FS moved
westward to the Island of Shemya to stand
guard. The 11th and 18th, based at Adak,
were to eventually receive P-38Ls in July
1945, and moved on to Shemya at that
Earlier, in the summer of 1942, at about the
time the 54th FS arrived at Alaska, other
P-38s were flying the North Atlantic to
British and Canadian pilots had been flying
American-built multi-engined aircraft across
the North Atlantic since 1939; but the
ferrying of planes with lesser range demanued
stepping-stone airstrips on Greenland and
Iceland. A base on Iceland was prepared
months before America was forced into the
war. US Marines, supported by the P-40-
equipped 33rd Pursuit Squadron of the
8th Pursuit Group, were ent there by
President Roosevelt in July 1941 (The P-40s
were flown off the deck of the Carrier Wasp).
By mid-summer 1942, airstrips in Greenland,
Bluie West One and Bluie West Eight,
possessed radio navigational aids, and the
build - up of US airpower in England
began under the code name Operation
During the rest of that year, a total of 882
aircraft out of 950 which started, most of
them flown by young Americans who had
never seen an ocean before, arrived safely.
These included 366 heavy bombers, 150
medium bombers, 183 transports, and 178
P-38 Lightnings.
The Lightnings, P-38Fs and P-38F-1s,
belonged to the 1st and 14th Fighter Groups,
and were sheperded across, in flights of four,
by B-17s of the 97th Bomb Group.
On 27 June 194280 Lightnings of the 94th,
27th, and 71st FSs, 1st FG, left Bangor,
Maine, following 20 B-17Es of the 341st BS,
97th BG. All but two of the five-plane flights
(four fighters, one bomber) completed the
crossing without remarkable incident. Those
two were Tomcat Yellow Flight, consisting
of the B-17E Dodo and three P-38s; and
Tomcat Green Flightled by B-17E Big Stoop,
also with three P-38s. One P-38 had aborted
from each flight at Bluie West One with
mechanical problems.
The two drop-outs were fortunate, because
the B-17s led the fighters into increasingly
bad weather while BW-1 behind them at
Narsasuak, Greenland became socked-in.
Learning that their destination in Iceland was
also closed, they tried BW-8 on Greenland's
east coast only to fmd it, too, zero-zero.
Left: An operational loss. P-38F-5
sin 42-12595. 50th FS, Iceland.
3 February 1944. I USAF
Be/ow: P-38F-1s of the 27th FS, 1st
FG, arrived in Iceland 6July 1942.
continued to England 28 August.
Right: 2-Lts Harry Stengle and
Jame McNulty of the 50th FS
hared aJu88 over Iceland on
24 April 1943. / USAF
Below: During 1942, 178 Lightning
were Rown to England via the
North Atlantic ferry route, while
656 reached Britain by sea. / U AF
Finally, low on fuel, the two flights turned
south to look for a place to land on the ice
cap. With their choices limited, they were
forced to accept a spot veined with creva e.
The first P-38 to go in lost its landing gear in
a wheels-down landing, so the remaining
Lightnings, and then the Fortresses, all landed
wheel-up. Not one of the 25 men in the eight
aircraft was seriously injured.
They were found within a couple of days
by a B-24 Liberator piloted by LtJ. B. Long,
and eventually rescued by dog sled. A recent
note from a researcher in California informs
that the airplanes are there today, in
'excellent condition.' The official USAAF
report on the incident gives the location as
65 20' N; 45 20' W.
So, the 94th FS lost six of it airplanes, but
no pilots, crossing the North Atlantic. The
50th FS, 14th FG, wa not as fortunate.
On 1 August 16 Lightnings of the 50th FS
left Goose Bay, Labrador, led by four B-17 ,
and over Davis Strait a P-38 piloted by
Lt Goodrich simply disappeared. No one saw
him go, though all aircraft were in visual
contact with one another above a 7,000ft
overcast, and Goodrich made no distress call
on his radio.
He could not have been gone very long
when he was missed, and LtJ. W. Williams,
commanding the lead B-17, handed over his
P-38s to another Fortress and turned back for
a search below the overcast. The sea was
rough beneath the 600ft ceiling, and visibility
poor. Williams gave up after 45 minutes, and
re umed hi course.
Lightnings of the 94th, 71st and
Headquarters Squadrons of the 1st FG arrived
in England between 9July and 25 July. The
27th FS, which had reached Iceland on 6July,
remained there until 28 August, adding some
muscle to the defence duties of the 33rds
During this time, Lt Elza E. Shahan of the
27th shared with P-40 pilot J. K. Shaffer
credit for the first German aircraft destroyed
in the European Theatre of Operations
(ETa) by the USAAF in World WarlI
when they shot down an FW200 Kurier, a
four-engined armed reconnaissance plane, off
the Icelandic coast on 15 August.
The 48th and 49th FSs of the 14th FG
reached England during the last two weeks in
August, permanently leaving behind in
Iceland the 50th FS, which relieved the 27th.
This allowed the 27th FS to join its sister units
of the 1st FG in England.
The 1st FG was based at Ibsley, and the
14th FG at Atcham, Shrewsbury. Both
groups belonged to the US 8th Air Force,
formed in January 1942 for the coming attack
on Hitler's Europe. However, even as the
Below: Langford Lodge, near
Belfast, was a large modification
and repair facility operated by
Lockheed and the 8th Service
Command. P-38F-5 and F-15 are
identifiable here. / USAF
Above: Delivery of the P- G began
in eptember 1942. The G models
were fitted with Alii on F-IO series
engines (V-1710-51/55) which
produced an extra 100hp at 25,oooft.
The last 200 P-3 G-10s could carry
l,800lb on each underwing pylon.
/ EdwardJablollSki
Left: Newly arrived Lightnings on
Queen's Drive in Liverpool being
towed to Liverp 01 Airdrome,
9January 1943. / AF
Right: The P-38H series, with
Allison F-15 (V-1710- 9/91)
engine of 1,425hp each, also
received new superchargers and
automatic oil temp control.
Maximum speed at 25,OOOft was
402mph. / U AF
Lightning groups set about preparing for
combat over the Continent, the exigencies of
war had decreed that they fight elsewhere.
On 8 July Prime Minister Churchill had
sent a message to President Roosevelt urging
that they proceed with the invasion of North
Africa, an operation they had previously
discussed. Since the two leaders had already
determined that the invasion of Europe was
not feasible before the spring of 1944,
Roosevelt agreed (after a 10-day delay due to
initial opposition from his top Army and
Navy commanders, General Marshall and
Admiral King), and Operation Torch was
scheduled for sometime in the fall. This
resulted in establishment of the US 12th Air
Force in August 1942, which would
necessarily claim the P-38 units available in
Meanwhile, the P-38 groups engaged in
practice sweeps over the Channel with RAF
squadrons, practiced gunnery, simulated
attacks on bomber formations, received
instruction from British operations and
intelligence officers, and familiarised
themselves with British radio procedures.
Two-plane elements of the 1st FG were
scrambled a number of times to intercept
reported enemy aircraft; but the pilots were
never told whether these were practice drills
or for real. No enemy aircraft were sighted.
The 94th FS lost.- Lt Charles Oakley to an
operational accident near Thirsk. During
October, the 14th FG flew several bomber
escort missions to the French Coast, but
encountered no enemy aircraft.
Then, on 24 October, the groups were
alerted for movement. Their destination was,
of course, unknown to them. Four days later,
the ground echelons boarded ships at
Liverpool. and the aircraft were flown to
Land's End on England's southernmost tip.
From there, they would fly to Gibraltar on
8 November the day Operation Torch wa
scheduled to begin. Many would not return.
A 4 th FS F Mickey A wn by
Doc Watson at GIbraltar taging field for
Operation Torch.; Roger Freemoll

North Africa
When Operation Torch wa launched on
8 November 1942 with Allied landings in
North-west Africa, British and
Commonwealth force had been fighting the
Germans and Italians in a see-saw war in
North-ea t Africa for more than two years.
However, just five days earlier, General
Bernard Montgomery' British 8th Army had
broken out of its defen ive position at
EI Alamein in Egypt, and was pursuing Field
Marshal Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps
westward into Libya. Therefore, Torch
provided the western jaw of a giant pmcer,
1,700 mile aero, within which enemy
forces in North Africa could be destroyed.
The key to ultimate victory in North
Africa would be the succes ful interdiction of
the enemy's supply lines acros the
and the key to that was Allied
General Montgomery, who understood the
proper u e of airpower, could press hi
advantage confident that Air Marshal
Tedder' De ert Air Force (which included
the newly - formed US 9th Air
Force) controlled the air over North-east
However, General Dwight Eisenhower, in
overall command of Torch, had yet to learn
the proper use of tactical airpower. He soon
had General Jimmy Doolittle's US 12th Air
Force pread thinly over 600 miles of North-
west Africa to serve, piecemeal, the presumed
need of his ground commanders. The two
P-38 groups, particularly the 14th FG, would
pay heavily for this wasteful concept.
Below: Lightnings of the 4 th FS,
14th FG, arrived in Algeria on
11 November 1942, three day after
the invasion of North Africa by
Allied forces under Eisenh wer.
; AF
Above: Welcoming committee; the
Germans wasted no time mounting
their first bombing raid against the
newly arrived P-38 at Maison
Blanche, Algiers, 16 November
1942./ USAF
Top right: Pilots of the 48th FS just
after arriving at Youks les Bains,
21 November 1942. Back row,left
to right: Lts Yates, Eubank,
Sorensen, Tollen, Beimdiek, Ethell,
Goebel, Carroll, Bestegen,
Schottelkorb, and V. Smith. Front
row: Capts Wroten, Bing, Walle,
Watson; and Lts Shipman and
/ Simpson Historical Research Center,
Bottom right: Lightning of the 27th
FS, 1st FG, tuck in clo e to a B-17
over North Africa on long-range
/ Allie Moszyk via EdwardJablonski
Operation Torch proceeded according to
plan during the first days (except for behind-
the-scene political moves involving the
puppet French leaders). Allied forces went
ashore at several points around Oran, Algiers,
and at Mehedia (Port Lyautey), Safl, and
Fedhala around Casablanca in French
There were some resistance from Vichy
French forces, but in the main the French had
little inclination to fight, and all threw down
their arms by 11 November.
On that day, at 13.30hrs, the first Lightning
mission flown from African soil was carried
out by pilots of the 48th FS. 14th FG. The
P-38 groups, the 1st and 14th, had flown from
Land's End to Gibraltar on the day of the
invasion, and the 48th's air echelon wa on the
field at Tafaraoui on the 11th. The 49th FS
arrived on the 18th. The 1st FG could put a
few P-38s in the air from North Africa on the
20th. By then, the ground support people had
found their air echelons, and the pilots were
no longer required to fuel and arm their own
The 48th FS moved to Maison Blanche on
the 16th, and, that night, the Luftwaffe
bombed and strafed the field, the Germans,
along with some Italian troops, having
arrived at EI Aouina Airfield near Tunis just
one day after the invasion. The hangars at
Maison Blanche were severely damaged, and
18 aircraft received major damage, including
seven P-38s.
On 18 November, the 48th FS flew its first
ofEcial combat mission after gathering 12
Lightnings from the ruin visited upon the
squadron two nights before. This was an
escort of20 C-47s to Constantine.
On 20 November the Germans returned to
Maison Blanche with 20 Ju87s and Ju88s,
destroying an entire British photo-recce unit,
four Spitfires (there were two US fighter
groups in the 12th AF equipped with
Spitfires, the 31st and 52nd), three
Beauflghters, a B-17, and two P-38s.
Fortunately, the 1st FG (still not combat-
ready), had moved to Nouvion earlier that
day. The 14th's two quadrons moved the
next day.
The 14th's new home wa Youk les Bain ,
about 10 miles east of Tabessa in North-east
Algeria. The 4,500ft runway at Youks was in
a tiny valley, with foothills rising to 4,oooft
on each side, and with a deep wash at one
end. It was a forward base, so forward in fact
that the only possibility of supply was by way
of the 60th Troop Carrier GroupI C-47
'Gooney Birds.' Sharing Youks with the 14th
was a squadron of Douglas DB-7 light
bombers manned by recently liberated French
airmen, and some British paratroopers. On
25 November the 94th FS of the 1 t FG also
came to Youks, while the 71st FS returned to
Maison Blanche for bomber e cort duty.
Meanwhile, on the 21st, ix P-38s of the
48th FS tangled with the Luftwaffe for the
first time while escorting 12 Fortresses to
Tunis. Near the target four Me109s were
spotted and a 25-minute running battle
ensued. Lt Carl Williams got one
Messerschmitt when it attempted to dive
away from him. He quickly overtook the
and scored the first Lightning victory
m Africa. Lt Ayers was injured when he was
forced to crash-land due to battle damage.
The next day, pilots from both squadrons
of the 14th FG flew a total of three missions
and one intercept. To start the day properly,
Capt :Wade Walles, 48th FS CO, led five
P-38s m a fighter sweep that accounted for a
locomotive, four tanks, and ... a motorcycle.
The mission of the day was for
but Lt Mark Shipham found
an Italian twm-engine Breda which he sent
crashing to earth. On the third mission Lts
S rense.n Tollen hot up a troop train,
destroymg It locomotive. Finally, Lt
Sorensen and Shipman were standing alert at
Youks late in the day when a Ju88 appeared
?ver the field at about 9,000ft. They
the enemy and scored hits on
theIr pass. One of Shipman's engines
was hit, so he wheeled away, allowing
Sorensen to follow the stricken bomber down
until it crashed.
Three combat missions and an intercept in
a day, that was to be the norm for the P-38s
in North Africa. Throughout December
1942, one could count on a single hand the
number of days the Lightnings failed to fly;
and those were days of impossible flying
weather. Or, perhaps properly, those
were the days when the bIg fighters simply
could not be moved through the mud.
Mud was an enemy with which Allied
planners had not reckoned. Expecting to
make unopposed landings in Morocco and
Algeria, and to grab the strategic town of
Tunis in a quick thrust, British and American
forces found them elves frustrated by the
Germans' quick reaction, a great airlift of
planes, tanks, and men from nearby Sicily, by
lack of mobility when the rains came; and by
committing their aircraft, a few at a time, to
ground support missions and un-coordinated
bombing raids, with no priority given to the
defeat of German and Italian Air Forces and
control of the air over North-west Africa.
The P-38s at Youks eventually triumphed
over the mud. Lt Ervin Ethell's plane,
Tangerine, was wrestled on to a smooth slope
of solid rock that rose into the hills adjacent
to the field. There wa almost 1,700t of it.
Ethell taxied to the top, swung around and
took-off downhill. He circled, then landed
uphill. Youks was an all-weather field
after all.
At least, it was for the airplanes. The men
continued to live in the mud. Tents were the
highest style of living until empty five-gallon
ans were fashioned into an officer's club.
od was almost always K-Ration, except for
me eggs and mutton bartered from local
The mission assigned to the P-38s at Youks
that of air support for the Allied forces in
ntral Tunisia, which included the right
flank of the US 1st Armored Division, and
the British 78th Division. But this was air
support as envisioned by local ground
Mission No 26 was typical, a
reconnaissance to the Bizerte area flown by
Lts Ethell and Skinner of the 48th FS, and Lts
Butler and Evan of the 49th FS. Heading for
El Arousa and anticipating heavy flak near
Bizerte, the four Lightnings went down to
the deck. Then, nosing over a hill by Lake
Bizerte, they suddenly saw in the sky ahead a
tight formation of 15 or 20Ju52s, flying about
30ft above the water and escorted by four
The P-38s fell upon the transports between
Menzel and Metline. 'It was like flushing a
covey of quail,' Ervin Ethell recalls. 'They
tried to scatter, but we were on top of them.'
Ethell methodically blasted four of the
transports from the sky and was working on a
fifth when he noticed that Skinner was in
trouble with two Me109s. Ethell broke away
from the Junkers, closed on the tail of one
Messerschmitt and gave it a three-second
burst with his cannon and four .50s. The
German fighter went down behind a hill
trailing smoke. But Skinner also went down.
Evans had accounted for a fifth Ju52. Then,
separated and low on fuel, the three P-38s
dived for the deck and headed home.
In addition to reconnaissance and ground
attack assignments, the P-38s were much in
Above: The soft, often muddy
wasteland at Youks took its toll.
Berber tribesmen watch as salvage
crew works. / Kenneth M. Sumney
Top left: Living conditions at Youks
were on the primitive ide; food
was worse. Lightning in
background has markings (HV-S)
of 27th FS, tationed at Biskra.
/ Kenneth M. I/Inney
Borrol/l left: Deluxe quarters at
Youks shared by Lt Norman
Jackson and John Caputo, the latter
in entrance. Construction was dirt-
filled five-gallon fuel tins.
/ orman W. Jackson
Top right: Col Elljot Roosevelt, the
Pre idem's son and CO of the 3rd
PhG, discusses mis ion with Lt-Col
Frank L. Dunn at La Senia. / USAF
&JIIOIIJ right: P-38F-1, bearing
Superman insignia, at Youks les
Bajns in December 1942. The
'UN' code was for the 94th FS, 1st
FG. / Kenneth M. SlIlIIlIey
Be/ow: An F-4 Lightning o( the 3rd
Photographic Reconnaissance
Group which arrived at La Serna,
Algeria, in mid-December 1942.
/ AF
m r e cort duty.
rhawks, nor the
It Ir had the range of the
I htnin . h refore, the P-38s were picked
r the kind of missions that seemed to ensure
a maximum of enemy opposition.
Meanwhile, the lack of replacement pilots
and planes further eroded the Lightning
groups' effectiveness. Most mission were
flown with six to eight P-38s. Two and four-
plane missions were not unu ual and 16 to 18
Lightnings for bomber e cort (protecting 20
to 25 medium or heavie ) wa a maximum
Then, ju t before Christmas 1942, the
Lightning-equipped 82nd FG (95th, 96th, and
97th FS ) arrived in North Africa, along with
ome replacement pilots for the 1st and
14th FGs. However, the 82nd was also under
strength and, by the middle ofJanuary 1943,
when Prime Minister Churchill and President
Roosevelt met at Casablanca, the 1st, 14th,
and 82nd FGs had a total of but 90 P-38s
between them. Normally a single US fighter
group would have 10 to 20 more airplanes
than that.
Things could have been worse, had not the
3rd Photographic Reconnaissance Group
landed its F-4 Lightnings at La Senia, Algeria
a month earlier to take over one of the tough
jobs the fighters had been trying to handle.
The 3rd PhG, by the war' wa commanded
by President's on, Co Elliot Ro evelt.
It is hardly possible to ay too much in
favour of the unarmed F-4/F-5 group.
Their s was a unique mission, composed of
approximately equal parts of boredom and
danger. And despite the fact that they
received little glory, no Lightning group
contributed more to ultimate victory, in
Africa and elsewhere. Since they almost
always flew alone, their comrade seldom
knew the cause when one failed to return.
During thi period Lt Virgil Smith, the
theatre' fir t American ace (48th FS), was
him elf shot down by an Me109 while on a
bomber escort rni sion to Gabes. Two of his
squadron mates, Lts Carroll and C. Smith,
were lost in the same air battle between 12
Lightnings and five exceedingly good
Messerschmitt pilots. In the hard blue above
North Africa, the good guys did not always
In the end, they did. They did becau e they
learned quickly and well; and because
Eisenhower knew he was doing something
wrong, and sent to England for General Carl
Spaatz to tell him what it was.
America has possessed no greater air
commander than General Spaatz. A WorId
War I fighter pilot, credited with three air
victories in France as CO of the 31st Aero
Squadron, Spaatz commanded a pursuit
group between wars, and went to England in
1942 to run the US 8th AF. He would later
become Chief of the USAAF when General
Arnold retired, and was the one man most
responsible for creation of today's
independent USAF.
When G neral paatz arrived in North
Africa, h ed the ituation and then was
characteri ti ally bri f and t -the-point in his
recommendation to eneral Ei enhower. He
said that fighter airplane are poor defensive
weapons; that airpower h uld alway be
used on the offensive, and that the first
mission of a tactical air force should be to
air superiority. Then, and only then, should tt
turn its attention to the supplementary roles
required of it by an advancing ground force.
General Eisenhower gave Spaatz a free
hand to do whatever was necessary.
That soon resulted in creation of the
North-west African Air Forces (N,AAF),
headed by General Spaatz, and a unifle.d
chain of command made up entirely of au
officers. In late February 1943, NAAF
integrated into Air .Chief M.arshal s
Mediterranean Atr Command, which
included, in North-east Africa, the
Commonwealth Desert Air Forces and the
US 9th AF under Air Vice-Marshal
Coningham. Coningham's planes were bosses
of the air over Libya as Montgomery pursued
Rommel into Tunisia. .
So at last all Allied air in North Afnca
was 'properiy structured .and efficiently
directed. Time, God, and a httle luck should
take care of all else.
Time was a commodity in short supply
within the USAAF Training Command, and
replacement pilots for decimated P-38
groups in North-west Afnca often needed to
rely on the other two above-mentioned
A too typical product of those desperate
days was Lt Norman W. Jackson, of t.he
first 26 replacement pilots that arnved wtth
the 82nd FGjust before Christmas 1942: .
'I had only 30 hours in P-38s, and no aenal
gunnery. Graduating from a bomber
advanced school and being stationed at
Olympia, Washington, for .three of
fog and rain, had left something to he demed.
'Arriving in North Africa, we were put in
combat with the 14th FG at a time when they
were being terribly mauled by ground fire, as
well as superior numbers of experienced
German pilots.
'By the time I had 30 hour' combat, I had
bailed out, crash-landed in the desert,
returned home on one engine, and brought
another P-38 home so shot up that it was
'Being inept at gunnery wa fru trating,
but I finally managed two confirmed
victories, one Fw190 head-on, holding the
red dot on hi yellow pinner almost too long
and flying through the debri ; and the other
an Me109 from the rear, closing 0 fa t that
my prop almost chewed him up before I
broke off ... '
Jackson's experiences not only under core his
own determination in the face of his everal
handicap, but remind u again that the big
fighter took pretty good care of it pilot.
It certainly took care of Capt Herbert
Johnson of the 48th FS one day. While on a
fighter sweep near Tripoli with even other
P-38s, Johnson spotted four enemy staff cars
and four trucks between the border and
Medenine in South-east Tuni ia. The
Lightning had already hot up orne other
targets, but the cars looked important. Herb
Johnson went in with all five guns firing and
one car exploded; but his concentration on
the target had crossed that fine line into
Above: Engine change. The national
insignia was outlined in red on
4 th FS machines while yellow
outline was used by most others.
I Ervin EtlJell
Above centre: Lt WilliamJ. Hoelle of
the 49th FS surveys damage to his
p- Maximum Goose incurred when
he struck a telephone pole during a
traflllg run, 31 December 1942.
Above left: General Carl A. 'Tooey'
Spaatz (left), and Lt-Col Ralph
Garman, CO of the 1st FG.
I Kenneth M. umney
&ttO/ll left: Lt Virgil H. mith, 4 th
F ,14th FG, scored fl ve aerial
vIctories during his fmt month in
combat over North Africa. I USAF
R ~ J J t The airfield at Bi kra,
Algeria was home to the 301st
Bomb Group, the 1st FG, and HQ
for the 12th Bomber Command in
January 1943. I U AF
east of Telergma. The 1st FG was at Biskra,
working with Bomber Command, and the
82nd FG would not have all its people
together, and enough airplanes, to begin
effective operations from Telergma until
early February.
Between 9January and 28January, the 14th
FG flew 23 missions (232 sorties) in response
to 12th Fighter Command directives. On
23January Maj Wade Walles led 16
Lightnings on a strafmg mission to Gabes and
Ben Gardine. Just short of Mendenine, the
flight entered an overcast and broke out over
the Luftwaffe fIeld at Ben Gardine. The
enemy was caught by surprise. There were a
number of aircraft on the field, some in the
landing pattern, and some taking-off. The
P-38s bounced the planes that were airborne,
about 20 in number.
Lt Yates made a pass only to fInd an Me109
on his tail, though it went down almost at
once under the guns of Capt Ralph Watson.
Other German fighters were hit, but there
was no time to watch them trike the ground.
In addition to the low-altitude dogfight,
ground fire was intense. Lt Schottelkorb was
seen to crash in flames. When the P-38s broke
fixation, and Capt Johnson flew into the
Lt Ervin Ethell, flying with John on, saw
the horrendous cloud of dust and
power to circle and see
If hIs companion had, by chance, urvived the
era h. Then Ethell tared in di belief as
P-38, minus one propeller and with
IS tail booms a kew came staggering out of
the du t still flying. Nur ing hi peed
carefully, Johnson actually coaxed hi flying
wreck to almost 8,OOOft to clear the
mountains between him and Youks Ie
Baine. There, he landed wheel -up and
walked away unhurt.
A good as Youk must have looked to
Capt Johnson that day, it wasn't much of a
place to return to. In addition to the poor
food and primitive life tyle, Youks was
periodically bombed and strafed by Ju88s;
and. on 9January 1943, following a
partlcularly heavy raid by the Luftwaffe, the
14th FG moved to Berteaux, about five mile
Right; Lt Ervin C. Ethell of the 14th
FG had four confirmed victorie
and a probable in a single acti n
near Bizerte on 28 November 1942.
I Emili Ethell
Far right; Flak-damaged Lightn1l1g
of the 48th FS (ES) apparently has
national insignia outlined in red.
Red photographs darker than blue
on some old films. I En'in Ethell
Belo[/!; Thi P-38F-15 of the 94th FS.
1 t FG. struck a pole while strafing,
but returned to base.
I Kelllleth M. II//tlley
Riglrt: Maj-GenJames Doolittle pins
the Di tinguished Flying Cross on
Maj Wade C. CO of the
4 th FS, February 1943. / U AF
Below: Ubiquitous entertainer Bob
Hope was in North Africa in 1943
posing with P-38 pilots (left to
right) Lts George Richards,John
Meidinger, A. G. Barber. and
RichardJennings of the 14th FG.
For riglrt, top: A 94th FS Lightning
at Biskra. Ace, Daisy, Eunice, and
Dick are among the names painted
on this one. / Kennetlr M. umney
For riglrt, bottom: Lightnings of the
49th F ,14th FG, approach Tunis
on an armed reconnai sance
mi ion. / Ervin C. Etlrell
off the 3O-minute melee, low on fuel and
ammunition, only 10 of them left the area.
Of the six missing pilots, Lt Mark Shipman
would be the only one to make it back.
crash-landed his badly damaged
LIghtmng near Gafsa; was stripped of his
belongings, except for a pair of pants, by
local Arabs, and then proceeded to walk the
250 miles back to Berteaux, at one point in
his journey passing through an Italian camp as
ifhe belonged there.
On 28 January 1943 the 14th FG was taken
out of combat. Of the original 54 pilots who
participated in Operation Torch, 32 had been
lost, 23 in aerial combat. In exchange, the
14th was credited with 62 enemy aircraft
de troyed, seven probabIes, and 17 damaged,
a proud record indeed when one considers
that aerial combat was largely a by-product
of the 14th's assigned role in North-west
With the departure of the 14th FG, there
would be but two Lightning groups to fight
in North-west Africa. The skeletonised
82nd FG had flown a few missions during
January 1943 and, bolstered by the planes and
replacement pilots left behind by the 14th, the
82nd was at least as strong as the group it
replaced. The 1st FG was moved to
Chateaudun-du-Rhumel on 28 January to
continue its service to Bomber Command.
On the 30th, 16 Lighmings of the 82nd's
96th squadron escorted B-25 Mitchells to
EI Aouinet, and in a running battle with
Me109s, from Gabes to Chott Djerid, four
P-38s were lost and six of the enemy went
down. Most of these pilots were recently
commissioned staff sergeant pilots, including
Lt William J. Sloan credited with his first
victory this day. Sloan would go on to
become the 82nd FG's ranking ace with 12
official victories.
Meanwhile, the British 8th Army had
chased Rommel all the way to Tunisia. By
mid-February, the Afrika Korps linked up
with the German and Italian forces at
Medenine, and Rommel assumed overall
command of the Axis forces in Tunisia. He
established a strong defensive position on his
eastern flank, known as the Mareth Line, to
halt the Briti h 8th Army, and then boldly
attacked Ei enhower's force to the west
through the Kas erine Pass. This attack,
intended to overrun Allied airfields and
capture badly-needed fuel for German Panzer
unit, was turned back after eight days of
heavy fighting. Every Allied airplane that
could fly was committed to the battle, and
even the B-17s were used in a tactical role at
low altitudes.
Rommel, having found no weakness on his
western flank, ent his Panzers in a series of
four attacks against the British 8th Army on
Top right: Lt Mark Shipman, centre,
upon his return to Berteaux after a
25G-::mile walk through enemy
temtory. At one point in his
journey he strode boldly through an
Italjan encampment.
/ Ervin C. Ethell
Right: A 48th FS Lightning,
P-38G-3 (one of only 12 built), at
Youks les Bams. / Ervin C. Ethell
BeIOlll: Vi ion obscured by dust, two
P-38 pilots of the 1st FG collided
during take-ofTat Biskra; January
1943. / USAF
6 March. His losses were heavy, and he
gained nothing.
Two weeks later, the British out-flanked
the 20-mile-wide Mareth Line, forcing
Rommel to retreat northward towards Tunis.
Then on 7 April elements of the British
8th Army met Eisenhower's forces in North-
central Tunisia. The two armies, that had
started 1,700miles apart, had closed the
pincer. Rommel was surrounded and backed
against the sea.
But there was still a lot of fight left in the
Desert Fox; exactly how much, would
depend upon his aerial supply lines from
Sicily and Italy. Allied intelligence sources
soon reported that more than 500 air
transports, Ju52s, SM82s, and Me323s, were
ba ed in Italy and Sicily, and that two daily
runs were made across the narrow Sicilian
Straits with strong fighter escort. The flights
originated at Naples, staged through Sicily,
and usually terminated at Sidi Ahmed or
El Aouina. (We would later learn that during
the four months from December to the end of
March, the Germans airlifted more than
40,000 men and 14,000 tons of supplies to
This great enemy airlift spawned
Operation Flax, a coordinated Allied air
offensive directed against the German
transports and their bases.
Operation Flax began on 5' April 1943,
with the 1st FG making an early morning
weep of the Mediterranean north of the
Cape Bone-Bizerte area, while the 95th FS of
the 82nd FG escorted Mitchells to Bo Rimzo
Airfield in Sicily, and the 95th FS took
another gaggle of Mitchells to look for
enemy shipping in the Sicilian Straits north of
Tunis. The P-40 units (there were five US
Warhawk groups, along with seven RAF,
RAAF, and SAAF Kittyhawk squadrons in
North Africa) were given additional sweep
and terminal attack missions. B-17s, escorted
by the 31st FGs Spitfires, bombed the airfields
at Sidi Ahmed and El Aouina.
The action began early, at 06.30hrs, when
the 26 Lightnings from the 1st FG found 50 to
75 Ju52s and their fighter escorts north-east of
Cape Bone. Attacking in pairs, with the
advantage of altitude, the P-38s destroyed 11
of the Junkers transports, three Me109s, an
Fw187, and two Ju87 Stukas. Two P-38s
were lost.
Two hours later, the 20 Lightrlings of the
96th FS, with a similar number of Mitchells
in tow, discovered another enemy air convoy
low above the Mediterranean in the same
area. There were 40 to 70Ju52s, with a mixed
escort of four Ju87s, 10 Me109s, six MellOs an
Me210, and an Fw190. The P-38s shared
seven Ju52s with the Mitchells, then fought
the Messerschrnitts all the way to Cape
Serrat, downing three Me109s, one MellO,
the Me210, and three Ju87s. Four Lightrlings
went down in this running battle.
On the 10th, the 27th Squadron 1st FG flew
top cover while the 71st Squadron ranged
down to 100ft off the water to fmd the low-
flying enemy transports over the Sicilian
Straits. Again, at 06.30hrs near Cape Bone,
the Lightnings came upon their quarry; 50
Ju52s, escorted by 15 Macchi C200s and
Fw190s. This time, the P-38s shot down
28 of the enemy and lost none of their
Below: A 48th FS Lightning is
serviced at Youks les Bains as C-47
supply planes arrived with mail,
ammunition and food. / Ervill C.
South-West Pacific1942-1943
Top right: P-38Fs.
/ Lockheed Aircraft Corporatioll
Bottom right: P-322 (Lightning Mk1
USAAF trainer./ USAF
Overleaf P-38M Night Lightning.
Below: Slightly over 1,400 photo-
reconnaissance Lightnings were
produced. The 6rst 500, built at
Lockheed and designated F-4 to
F-5B, employed airframes and
engines of the P-38E to P-38J-10.
The rest came from the Dallas
Modification Center as re-workedJ
and L models. The F-5 above used
P-38H-1 airframe./ Guy Watson
Someone long ago observed that victory in
war depends less upon the brilliance of a
nation's leaders than upon the blunders of the
enemy. Defeat is largely self-administered. A
case in point is the Japanese attack on the US
Naval base at Pearl Harbor on 7 December
1941. Nothing America's leaders could have
said or done would have so united the
country in a fierce determination to fight. A
day before, the US Congress would have
rejected war. A day after, few Americans
would settle for less than the absolute,
unconditional surrender of Japan and her
. Axis partners. The Japanese had made a
blunder of monstrous proportions.
Japan's folly would not be apparent for a
while because the United States was
unprepared for war. For six months, the
Nipponese would exult in one victory after
another as they moved swiftly southward
against the Philippines, Malaya, and
Netherland's Indies. By the time the
Philippines fell to the Japanese in early May
1942, the enemy also controlled Burma,
Thailand, French Indochina, the Malay
Archipelago, and farther to the east had
secured strong lodgments on the islands of
New Guinea, New Britain, and in the
Solomons, flanking the approaches to
Australia and New Zealand from the United
Into this uncertain arena came the
Lightning, a total of four of them, on 7 April
1942. These machines were F-4s, photo-
reconnaissance versions of the P-38E. They
were assigned to the 8th Photographic
Squadron (which had no parent group) of the
5th Air Force, commanded by Maj Karl
Polifka, and originally formed in Melbourne,
The 8th PhS was operational by mid-July,
flying from Laloki and Port Moresby,
New Guinea, just across the
Owen Stanley Mountains from the
The Battle of the Coral Sea in May had
saved Port Moresby from invasion; and the
Battle of Midway in June had reduced the
enemy's aircraft carrier strength to the same
level as America's (six each). These two
battles had established the aircraft carrier as
the new master of the seas. Therefore, in view
of the vast distances encompassed by Japan's
newly-won oceanic empire, and America's
but there:
38 went down m
We should mention
participated very effi .
18 April, 47 Warbawlcs ..
staged the 'Palm Sunday ,... \8,
58 Ju52s, 14 Me202s, and ur
shot down for the loss of six Warbawks :lrld
one' Spitfire. (Contrary to some off-the-cuif
assessments in the past he Waro-
hawk/Kittyhawk was more than a match for
the Me109G below 15,000ft.)
The success of Flax, predicated upon Allied
counn-ol of the air over North Africa from .
mid March onward, wrote the final
pronouncement for the Axis powers there.
On 13 May 270,000 German and Italian
soldiers. trapped on Tunisia's north coast and
denied the means to make war, surrendered at
Field Marshal Rommel left North Africa
shortly before the end. and would plague the
Allies in Italy a bit later.
The 14th FG, at full strength with a new
squadron added (37th FS). possessing 105
pilots and 90 new rerurned to
Telergma just before the enemy capirulated.
This pioneer Lightning group would return
to the thick of things in Ital y.
The fighting 82nd would be there too,
along with the 1st FG. The 82nd lost 64
Lightnings to down 199 enemy aircraft. plus
39 probables and 47 damaged since entering
combat the previous December. But it was
offered no respite. Pantelleria and Sicily were
next, then the invasion of Italy.
The 82nd FG was up at 10.45hrs with 27
Lightnings escorting Mitchells on another
sweep of the sea. At 12.40hrs they
encountered 30 enemy transports with tWo
MellOs, three Ju88s, and two Ju87s, 10 miles
north of Cape Bone heading for Tunis.
Eleven P-38s stayed with the Mitchells while
the others attacked, shooting down 10 Ju52s,
a Ju88, and an MellO. Lt W. L. Riddle, after
getting a transport, ran upon the 110 so fast
that he cut off its tail with his props, downing
both himself and the enemv. Meanwhile, 15
Mel09s joined the battle, one of them
was shot down before the P-38s, Iowan
ammunition, dived for home. Lt Riddle was
their only loss.
On the following day, the 82nd was low
over the sea again with 19 Lightnings from
the 95th FS, and 20 from the 96th FS. The
95th flew towards Sicily and met a formation
of 20 enemy transports just above the water
north of La Goulette with a cover of four
Mell0s and four or more Ju88s at 2.000ft
along with seven or more Me109s somewhat
higher. The P-38s got all of the transports on
this occasion, including one that was believed
to be aJu252, and also shot down seven of the
e corting fighters. Three were
lost, one of which, flown by Lt Grinnan,
collided with aJu52.
In the meantime, the 96th FS was
directed, and four of its four-plane
elements missed the area where the action
was. The remaining four aircraft, however
discovered 25 to 30 Ju52s flying back to
Sicily, 10 miles south of Maratina. The
offtcial report omits mention of fighter cover,
Below: Lightnings of the 14th FG
'beat up' the field at Berteaux,
Morocco, mid-1943.
/ Narion.ll Record, Celller
capacity to far out-strip Japan in building and
manning new carriers, it was clear that the
enemy could not prevent the American
occupation and build-up of forces on 'one
damned after another' across the
South-west Pacific. These bases would insure
the security of Australia and New Zeahnd,
and provide the stepping stones to re-take the
Philippines and, ultimately, strike at Japan
Meanwhile, the Japanese must be dislodged
from some of these islands, and on 7July 1942
the US Joint Chiefs directed that Admiral
Nimitz, commanding the Pacific Ocean
Areas (North, Central, and South PacifiC),
begin a series of operations in the Solomons,
advancing on the Japanese stronghold of
Rabaul on New Britain Island in the Bismark
Archipelago. Concurrently, General
MacArthur, commanding the South-west
Pacific Area, would move his Australian and
American forces up the northern coast of
New Guinea.
A stubborn enemy, however, would render
these twin thrusts both costly and time-
Far An F-SB-1 with a P-38J-S
/ Locklreed Aircraft Corporation
BelolII/eft: P-38G-10. / USAF
Left: Dean of Lightning recce pilots
was Karl Polifka, who took the 8th
PhS to the SW PacifiC in April
1942, later served in Italy. / USAF
BelolII: Lightnings arrive in New
Caledonia, November 1942, for the
339th FS on Guadalcanal. / USAF
Right: Admiral Chester Nimitz
commanded Central and South
Pacific Areas, including the 7th and
13th AFs which drove to meet
MacArthur's Southwest Pacific
forces, spearheaded by the 5th AF,
to regain control of the PaCIfIC and
the air above it./ US Navy
Below: Brave photographer got this
shot of39th FS P-3Bs returning to
Laloki (14-Mile Drome), Port
Moresby, New Guinea late in 1942.
Lightning at left, No 23, was .
usually piloted by Charles Sullivan.
/ Australian War Memorial
In the meantime, Maj Polifka's 8th phS
mapped a large portion of eastern New
Guinea and New Britain. The 8th's
Lightnings were the only source of hard data
on what the enemy was doing that
MacArthur and Nimitz possessed. Their
normal recon route was direct to Rabaul,
then back to Port Moresby by way of enemy-
occupied Lae and Salamaua on New Guinea's
northeast coast.
Polifka and his 'Eight Balls,' as the
squadron came to be known, regarded
weather as a greater threat than the enemy
fighters. Their Lightnings could out-run
anything the Japanese had; but on the way to
Rabaul the F-4s crossed the Equatorial Front
and its quick-forming tropical storms. They
had many bad moments with these.
The 8th's .possession of the
Lightnings led to some unusual InCldents.
Once, Lt Alex Guerry encountered four
Rufe floatplanes during' a low level run
Angered because he had no guns, Guerry
began to make passes at the slower craft,
eventually forcing all of them to land. As the
last Rufe settled on the water, Guerry dived
again and 'swooshed hiI? with my propeller
wash' flipping it on to 1tS back. Guerry then
the scene to .establish
confirmation for his kill. As far as 1S known,
it was the only enemy aircraft to be
'swooshed down' in combat.
However, Lt Robert Faurot of the 39th FS
at Port Moresby 'splashed down' a Zero
shortly afterwards. On 24 November the
39th's Lightnings each took a 500lb bomb to
the Japanese base at Lae. Faurot missed his
target and his bomb exploded in the water
directly ahead of a Zero that was taking off to
intercept the P-38s. The Zero struck the huge
column of water and crashed.
Although the first Lightnings with guns
arrived in Brisbane in August 1942, to form
the 39th FS of the 35th FG, the 39th was not
operational until mid November because
most of its P-38F-ls, 30 machines in all, had
leaking inter-coolers, missing ammunition
feeds, faulty inverters, and poorly-sealed fuel
tanks. When all these problems were solved,
the 39th moved to Laloki, Port Moresby's 14-
mile Drome, with Capt George Prentice
In the meantime, the 339th FS of the
347th FG, on Henderson Field, Guadalcanal
(in the Solomons, 850 miles east of Port
Moresby) began receiving P-38s which it
Aew together with its P-39s. The 339th flew
its first P-38 mission on 18 November,
'scarting five B-17s of the 11th BG on an
attack against enemy shipping.
The 39th FS had.its first big fight with the
Japanese on 27 December when it scrambled
12 Lightnings to intercept 12 'Zekes', along
with 12 'Vals' (Aichi D3Al-l, Type 99 dive
bomber), escorted by 31 'Oscars' (Nakajima
Ki-43, Type 1 fighter). The enemy formation
appeared headed for the new Allied base at
The P-38s, led by Capt Thomas J. Lynch,
found the enemy just beyond the mountains
and scattered the Oscars by diving through
their formation on a firing pass that carried
the Lightnings down for a pass at the Vals,
and then up again for another crack at the
Oscars. By that time, the Zekes were entering
the battle, and P-40s from the 9th FS arrived
to get a piece of the action.
The relatively inexperienced P-38 pilots
made mistakes. Some fired prematurely from
extreme ranges; several wasted time and
opportunity chasing friendly P-40s, and
others slowed down and tried to dog-fight
the agile Zekes on the enemy's terms. Still,
the 39th FS's 12 Lightnings claimed nine
victories without loss to themselves. Lt
Richard 1. Bong, flying a P-38 (although
flying with the Warhawk equipped 9th FS,
49th FG), claimed a Val and a Zeke, his first
victories. He would get more.
Four days later, the 39th FS destroyed nine
more enemy fighters on a bomber support
Abo!Je: A 39th FS Lightning at Port
Moresby, early in 1943.
/ Steve Birdsall !Jia BTllce Hoy
destroyers to land 6,000 troops at Lae. This
resulted in the Battle of the Bismark Sea
which was primarily fought between
Japanese and the 5th Air Force.
On the 2nd, in marginal weather, 16
Lightnings of the 9th and 39th FSs were sent
with 28 Flying Fortresses to attack the ships in
Huon Gulf. One transport was sunk and the
P-38s downed two Oscars. On the following
day the was clear, and 28 Lightnings
accompamed the B-25s, A20s, and Australian
Beaufighters to the Lae area. The P-38s
claimed nine enemy fighters destroyed out of
25, but lost Bob Faurot and two others from
the 39th FS. Dick Bong got his sixth
confirmed victory (which he called an
'Oscar-type Zero' in his report. Many
American airmen tended to call all Japanese
fighters 'Zeros'), and Lt Harry Brown, who
had shot down two Japanese planes over
Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, flying a
P-36 Hawk, was credited with another.
the Beaufighters, A-20s and
MItchells, skip-bombing and strafing, sent
two destroyers and three transports to the
bottom. PT boats sank the last transport. Of
the 16-ship convoy, only four destroyers
'{('/I Walter Beane, Australian
Illtelligence officer, talks with pilots
of the 39th FS before the P-38F
flown by Dick Bong at that time.
/ Charles W. Killg
J.c:fr: Lt Robert Faurot, 39th FS,
J5th FG, who 'sunk' an enemy
fighter plane to make the first P-38
kJll in the SW Pacific.
/ IIrrall L. 'jack'JOlles
Above: Insignia of the 339th FS.
A 9th FS Lightning near Port
Moresby, 8 March 1943. / BTllce Hoy
mission to Lae. Lt Ken Sparks got one of
them when he sheared-off its right wing in a
collision. Sparks lost two feet of his own right
wing, but returned safely to Laloki.
On 4 January 1943 the 9th FS, 49th FG,
received the first of its Lightnings, and
two days later, when the 8th PhS's F-4s
reported an enemy convoy headed for the
Japanese base at Lae, New Guinea, the 9th's
P-38s joined all other Allied airctaft at Port
Moresby in the attack. The Lightnings and
Warhawks shot down more than 50 enemy
aircraft during the three-day battle (Dick
Bong added two to his score in his brand new
At this time, General Kenney's 5th AF
fighter commander, General Paul 'Squeeze'
Wurtsmith, possessed but 330 fighter aircraft,
only 80 of which were P-38s. Another 72
were P-4oo (P-39) Airacobras, employed
almost exlusively for ground attack missions
since they were so clearly inferior to Japanese
fighters, while most of the rest were P-40
Warhawks and Kittyhawks. Among the
latter were seven Royal New Zealand Air
Force squadrons, eight Royal Australian Air
Force squadrons, and one Dutch squadron.
Since the P-40 had neither the range nor
altitude capability of the P-38, General
Kenney's on-going pleas for more P-38s is
A lull in the air action followed the early
January battles, with enemy aircraft
appearing in force only once during
February; then, on 1 March the Japanese
dispatched eight transports with eight

Ire.lted C:OtllrtCOtls'"
survived, rescuing about 2,700 enemy soldier
and returning them to Rabaul.
It wa not a large battle by World War II
standard, but it was a significant one. Taken
together with the final victory on
Guadalcanal the previou November, it
greatly facilitated American trategy in the
Pacific. In this trategy the two line of
advance, the one, under Nimitz, aero the
Central Pacific via the Gilbert, Mar hall,
Marianas, Carolines, and Palaus toward tbe
Philippines; and the other, under MacArthur,
in the South-west Pacific via the north coast
of New Guinea to the Vogelkop and thence
to the southern Philippines, were mutually
supporting, and forced Japan to spread her
defence forces thinly, especially, as Allied
forces in India gathered for an assault from
another quarter.
Late in March, the 80th FS of the 8th FG
transitioned P-38s and joined the 9th and
39th FSs at Port Moresby. That made three
P-38 squadrons in the 5th AF, each from a
different group.
Then, between 2 and 18 April, Japane e
Admiral I oruku Yamamoto' entire carrier
air fleet was land-ba ed at Rabaul for
Operation I-go, an all-out attempt to regain
aIr superiority over eastern New Guinea and
the Solomons. These forces made two major
raids against Allied bases on New Guinea
with as many as 100 aircraft, hitting Port
Moresby on the 12th, and Milne Bay on the
14th. The enemy lost 32 bomber and 23
fighters, largely to the P-38s.
But the show - down air battle never
took place. Operation I-go was
abruptly terminated when P-38s of the
347th FG on Guadalcanal ambushed Admiral
Above: Lightning of the 9th FS,
49th FG, at Dobodura. The 9th wa
equipped with P-38s in January
1943. I Alistralian War Memorial
Right: US airmen in the SW Pacific
dropped surrender invitations over
enemy hold-outs without noticeable
results. I Richard Bracey
Far riglrt, bottom: Camera control of
recce Lightning. Diving peed
limits were affixed to comrol
column. I AF
Far right, top: In January 1943 the
17th Ph was operating from
Cactus Strip on GuadalcanaJ. The
F-SA-1 above, sin 42-12670. was
finally recired at Biak in August
1945 after 200 missions and 1,019
hours' Aying time.
I Dr Richard Blims
Above: On 5 April 1943 lay Tice's
P-38 suffered a collapsed nose wheel
trut in soft ground at Dobodura,
New Guinea. Tice would go through
a number of P-38s called Elsie until at
last erring down on Japanese soil, as
CO of the 49th FG, in August 1945.
/ AF
Right: Personnel of the 475th FG
examine one of their new P-38Hs at
Townsville, Australia, May 1943.
The 475th was the fir t all-
Lightning group in the W Pacific,
and one of the hottest fighrer outfit
of the war. / Frotlk F. //lith
uring the preceding two weeks, the
347th FG (339th and 70th FS ; still the only
I -3 in the Solomon) had also taken its toll
of enemy aircraft a they came down the 'slot'
r m Rabaul, a many as 160 Vals and Zero
n a ingle raid. However, the 347th's most
tgniflcant mi sion was its a ignment to kill
n admiral, the Commander of the Japanese
Ileet, and perhaps his country's most brilliant
tr tegist.
It was pos ible because US Navy
ryptographer had broken the enemy's naval
de (which earlier provided the key to the
merican victory at Midway). Admiral
lmitz was reading hi enemy' mail. And
,hen a message was intercepted informing
h t Admiral Yamamoto would leave Rabaul
ard a 'Betty' (Mitsubishi G4M1 Navy
ttack plane) on 18 April for an inspection
tp to Ballale, Bougainville, 16 Lightning
rc hurriedly serviced for the intercept.
wo P-38s aborted the mis ion with
hanical problems, leaving 10 to take care
Yamamoto's fighter escort, while four
Lightning would go after the Admiral's
Yamamoto left Rabaul preci ely on time in
a 70Sth Kokutai Betty accompanied by
Admiral Ugaki in a second Betty and
e corted by ix Zeros of the 309th Kokutai.
At 09.34hr, Doug Canning potted the
Japanese formation, dead on course and only
one minute from estimated interception:
'Bogeys, eleven o'clock high!' The
Lightnings separated, climbing steeply. Lt
Be by Holmes momentarily turned away
from the attack until he could free his drop
tanks, and his wing man, Lt Ray Hine,
followed him. That left Capt Thomas
Lanphier and Lt Rex Barber to make the
initial pas at the Bettys.
Lanphier was a mile east of ~ Japanese
formation when he saw the Zeros' drop tanks
flutter away. The Zero turned into the P-38s
and Lanphier flamed one in a head-on pass as
Barber followed a Betty to treetop level.
Three Zeros were on Barber's tail, but were
driven offby Holmes and Hine.
Above: Crew chief Willard Berg
checks the Form One of this 347th
FG Lightning from the comfort of
hi homemade 'beach chair.'
Lanphier had rolled on to his back to look
out the top of his canopy for the Bettys, and
saw Barber with two Zeros and the lead
Betty 'kimming along the urface of the
jungle headed for Kahili.: He dived on the
Betty, with two Zeros chasing desperately,
and began firing at extreme range. At this
point, Holmes and Hine scattered the Zero
(actually three, though Lanphier saw but
two) closing on Barber, and Barber switched
hi attention to the second Betty which was
turning out to ea clo e to the surface.
Lanphier slowed, coolly concentrating on his
gunsight, and sent another long burst into the
lead Betty. Flames erupted from its right
engine, its right wing tore away, and it
crashed into the jungle. Lanphier turned into
the Zeros following him, and entered a
shallow high-speed climb, out-distancing the
enemy fighters.
While the remaining Lightnings were busy
with additional Zero swarming up from the
field at nearby Kahili, Homes and Hine again
rescued Barber who was pursuing the second
Betty low over the water, raking it with hi
guns and cannon, as he him elf wa again
bracketed by three Zeros. Holmes carne
down with his air speed indicating 425mph
and flamed two of the Zero a Hine went
after the third. Holmes' momentum carried
him pa t Barbel' to close very fast on the Betty.
He eased-in the rudder to frame the enemy in
the lighted ring of his gunsight, and fired an
unusually long burst into the Betty's right
engine. In his eagerness, Holme almost
crashed into hi target before diving beneath
it with only a few feet to pare above the
water. He looked back to see the Betty
explode as it struck the surface.
Above: Lightning of the 39th FS
ju t prior to their fir t air battle
with Japanese fighters on
27 December 1942. No 33 was
normally flown by Ken Sparks or
Richard Smith. / Bruce Hoy
Left: Maj Frank avage, who
succeeded Polifka a commander of
the 8th PhS, 'dine informally' from
atop fuel drum at Port More by.
/ AF
Above: On 16June 1943 Lt Murray
Schubin of the 339th F destroyed
fi ve enemy fighters and claimed a
sixth as a probable during a
45-minute air battle. / AF
It appears the both Barber and Holmes
claimed the second Betty, from which Vice
Admiral Ugaki miraculously escaped. Capt
Lanphier was credited with downing the lead
Betty in which Admiral Yamamoto died.
Ray Hine did not return from the mission, the
only los suffered by the attacking force.
Throughout the summer of 1943 the 347th
FG's two squadrons continued to meet the
enemy with success disproportionate to their
dwindling strength. By Augu t, only a few
P-38s were left in the Solomons, and the
P-40 along with Marine Corsair squadron
VMF-124, would necessarily carry much of
the fighters' burden until more Lightnings
were available to the 13th AF.
Actually, 115 new P-38G Models came out
of the Eagle Farms Depot at Brisbane in May;
but General Kenney got them for service in
New Guinea with his 5th AF. Kenney used
them to form the 475th FG. He chose Maj
George Prentice of the 39th FS as the 475th'
commander, and Prentice raided the 39th and
80th FSs for squadron and element leaders.
The 475th would consist of the 431st, 432nd,
and 433rd FSs. At long last there would be an
all-Lightning group in the PacifiC.
The 5th AF also received, a few weeks
later, the 348th FG, commanded by Maj Neel
E. Kearby, and equipped with P-47
Thunderb It .
The reason {; r the 5th AF' udden wealth
in fighter airplanes was oon apparent. In
June, General MacArthur and Vice Admiral
Halsey, Nimitz' commander in the South
Pacific, re umed their offensive to encircle
Rabaul. By early Augu t Army force under
Halsey secured New Georgia, with it
important Munda airfield, in the central
Solomon; and by 1 November US Marine
were on Bouganvil1e, just 300 miles outh-
east of Rabaul.
MacArthur's force (mo t1y Australian)
meanwhile advanced up the north-east coast
of New Guinea to occupy Salamaua, Lae,
and the inland airfield at Nadzab, about 450
mile south-we t of Rabaul.
In each pha e of the e twin campaigns, the
Japanese sought un uccessfully to contest
Allied air and naval supremacy, losing in
Above: A bootleg in-flight photo of
a 432nd FS P-38H en route to
Wewak, August 1943.
/ c. J. Riemall
Left: On 15 October 1943 Charle
MacDonald commandeered this
433rd FS Lightning to lead the
475th FG against a large enemy
force approaching Oro Bay.
MacDonald shot down two enemy
planes. but his P-38 was damaged
and he crash-landed at Dobodura.
/ Teddy Hanks
those efforts plane and pilots that they could
ill afford to spare.
The new 475th FG entered combat in mid
Augu t 1943 when the 431st and 432nd FS
moved up to Twelve-Mile Strip and Ward's
Drome at Port Moresby, and the 433rd went
to Jackson Drome.
On 17 Augu t, the 5th AF began an
intensive five-day attack on the Wewak area
to knock out enemy air opposition to Allied
landing there scheduled for 4 September.
Caught by urprise, the Japane e lost more
than half their airplanes on the ground to
Kenney's bomber on the first day. On
succeeding days,l?-38s of the 9th, 39th, and
80th FS , along with those of the 475th FG,
destroyed in air combat most of those that
remained. Salamaua fell to Au tralian troops
on 13 September, Lae and Nadzab three day
later; and by early October the 5th AF wa
concentrated at Dobodura in preparation for
an all-out assault on Rabaul in concert with
General Harmon' 13th AF in the Solomon.
The air offen ive against Rabaul began
12 October with 106 Lightning from all
5th AF units e corting 107 Liberators,
Mitchells, and Beaufighter over the target
area. Throughout the re t of October and
into November, the strike continued against
the enemy, 100,000 trong, at RabauI. The
bomber groups went in turn, but the P-38
went every time. The 9th and 80th FS
received Distinguished Unit Citation for
their outstanding performance in protecting
the bomber while sharing a total of 50
confirmed kill .
In the end, no Allied forces were put a hore
to take RabauI. Pos e ing control of the air,
MacArthur and Hal ey eized trategically
located island to encircle the important
stronghold, and left it to wither for the lack
of upply.
Far left: One of the out tanding
lighter leaders of the Pacific War
wa Capt Daniel T. Roberts who
It,d the 433rd F until hi death on
I) November 1943, at which time he
had 15 confIrmed aerial victories.
Dellllis Clen Cooper
l.':ft: Top ace of the 80th F ,with
22 victories, wa Jay T. Robbins, a
cool and skilful fighter pilot who
talked sparingly. / JollII Slanaway
Below left: Commanding fficer of
the 475th FG was Lt- 01 George
Prentice, a former 39th F
l'llmmander. C/n faintly visible on
nose of his Lightning identifies it as
.l P-38H-5. / Dfllnis Clel/ Cooper
i ~ h t The 39th FS CO Thomas
J. Lynch was another with unusual
leadership abilities. Lynch was
kIlled in March 1944, at which rime
he had 20 official vietorie .
AI/slm/ian War Memorial
&Iow: Dick Bong with his 9th F
Lightning just after hi 2\ st victory
on 5 ovember 1943. / Carl BoII,{!
nearly three weeks, then escaped across the
Straits of Messina to Italy under cover of
All this prompted the Italian king to force
the resignation of Premier Mu olini and
begin secret negotiations with the Allies to
take Italy out of the war. Although the
Italians were virtual prisoners of the 26
German divi ions in their country, Italy's
surrender was neverthele s announced by
General Eisenhower on 8 September as the
US 5th Army prepared to torm the beaches
at Salerno. Five days earlier, British
forces under Montgomery had crossed the
Strait of Messina and landed in Southern
These dramatic developments were,
however, only a beginning. The Germans'
determined stand in Italy, under Field
Marshal Ke selring, would continue for 20
difficult months and precipitate many great
air battle.
Following the Allied victory in North Africa
in May 1943, planning proceeded for the
invasion of Sicily (Operation Husky)
according to decisions reached by Prime
Minister Churchill and President Roosevelt at
the January 1943 Casablanca Conference.
Neutralisation of the Luftwaffe was, of
course, an essential prelude to the invasion,
and during June the North-west African Air
Forces crippled most of the enemy airfields in
Sicily, destroying almost 1,000 planes. By
10July, the day of the inva ion, the
remaining enemy aircraft had been moved to
bases in Italy, and the ship convoys carrying
160,000 men, the British 8th Army and US
7th Army, discharged their cargoes with little
enemy air opposition.
During the invasion, the Allied air
umbrella extended far into Italy, and by
13July, 12thAF fighter were making
themselves at home on Sicilian aireld.
German ground forces, however, held out for
Bottom right: In mid-1943, the us
transferred four F-4 and two F-5As
to the French Groupe de .
Reconnaissance 2/33 then ba ed in
Tunisia. Later in the war, the
French unit received F-5Bs (above).
Top right: 94th FS LtJ. Hagenback
on airstrip at Sardinia with his bat-
nosed P-38H-5 in October 1943.
/ Bill Lenhart via Ken "'/Illey
Below: In September 1943, the
Lightning of the 12th AF began to
operate from Sicily under
conditions that harkened back to
the early days in North Africa.
Above, a 94th FS P-38G returns to
base. / USAF
Rig/It: Maj Bill Leverette, CO of
the 37th FS, 14th FG, led eight
Lightnings against 25 Stukas, with
Ju88 escorts, which were attacking
British hipping near the Dodecanse
I lands on 9 October 1943.
Leverette shot down seven of the
enemy, and the other P-38 pilots,
including Bob Margi on (right),
accounted for 10 more.
I Bob Margison
Below: Lt Richard Campbell of the
14th FG would later add one more
swastika to the victory symbols on
the nose of Earthqllake McCoolI. The
Italian symbol was for an Mc202.
During June, the three P-38 groups, the 1st,
14th and 82nd, were based in Tunisia. Also
Lightning-equipped were the veteran
3rd PhG, re-designated Photographic Group
Reconnaissance (PhGr), and the French
Groupe de Reconnaissance 2/33 which had
received four refurbished F-4s and two new
Famed author Antoine de Saint-Exupery,
at age 45, was a pilot in 2/33, which was
commanded by Maj Rene Gavoille. These
recce units, including RAF 682 Squadron,
constituted the Mediterranean Allied photo
Reconnaissance Wing (MAPRW) under the
command of Col Karl Polifka (succeeding
Col Elliot Roo evelt) who had flown the fIrst
Lightning recce missions of the war in the
SW Pacific.
Saint-Exupery would be one of the many
lone recce pilots that failed to return from a
mission and whose manner of death was
never known.
But the very fact that the recce pilot had
no guns led them to temptations that other
combat pilots would not usually entertain.
Before Sardina was taken, Col Frank Dunn
dived through a low overcast near Cagliari to
fmd himself in the midst of circling enemy
aircraft over an Axis airfield. Dunn joined
them 'because I didn't want to be
conspicuous.' The uncertain enemy pilots
merely stared at him. None fired. At last
Dunn saw his chance to break away and
continued over the city.
He arrived at the railway station ju t a a
train was pulling in. He had orne empty fuel
tanks it was time to jettison, so he dropped
lower and cut them loose over the train. The
tanks struck the roof of the car just back of
the locomotive and Dunn saw the engineer
bailing out of his cab while passengers
tumbled from the train's windows. It was a
very satisfying sight.
By 13 August the Sicilian operation was
going so well that the 12th AF sent 106
Fortre es, escorted by 45 Lightnings, along
with 106 Marauders and 66 Mitchells,
e corted by 90 Lightnings, to the mar haIling
yards at Littoria and Lorenzo near Naples.
This involved most of the Lightnings
available in the theatre, which were during
this period mostly P-38G-10s and G-15s.
Near the target this force was intercepted
by 75 enemy fighters, but the P-38s stayed
with the bombers so well that only two
Marauder were lost. Five enemy fighters
were claimed.
Up to 17 August, when Operation Husky
ended, all three P-38 group carried out
extensive fighter sweeps, raiding the enemy's
evacuation routes, strafing trains, bombing
railway tracks, attacking motor transports,
knocking-out radar sites, and destroying
bridges. The 5th Photo Reconnaissance
Group (PRG), equipped with F-5 Lightnings,
joined the 12th AF at this time as the raids
were concentrated in the Naples-Foggia area.
A maximum effort was ordered for the 1st
and 82nd FGs on 25 August, directed against
the airfields at Foggia; both groups would
earn Distinguished Unit Citations for their
execution of that mission. Every field at
Foggia was to be hit, the 1st FG striking at
flC1ds 1, 2, and 4 with 65 Lightnings, while
the 82nd FG would attack the rest with as
many airplanes as they could muster.
The two groups were airborne at 07.06hrs,
and approached the target area on a course of
270 degrees, all aircraft hugging the deck.
They achieved total surprise. At 09.25hrs a
deadly scythe of Lightnings cut across the
broad plain, and was almost gone before
there was any answering fire from the
ground. In their wake, the P-38s left nearly
200 enemy aircraft destroyed or damaged.
Two P-38s went down.
De pite their losses, the German and Italian
fighters met the P-38s in large numbers on
every raid. On 2 September, just a day before
Montgomery cro ed the Strait of Messina
into Italy, the 82nd FG sent 74 P-38Gs and
five P-38Fs to accompany 72 Mitchells to the
Cancellor marshalling yards ju t north of
Naples. This mission would result in another
Above left: Picture of a happy ace:
Lt William]. 'Dixie' Sloan of the
82nd FG has just completed hi tour
in Italy with 12 victorie , making
him the top scorer in the 12th AF.
Later, Michael Brezas of the 14th
FG, 15th AF, would have a total of
12, and Maj Leverette would have
11. Photo is dated 9 August 1943,
and Sloan's machine is a P-38G-10.
INatiollal Archives
Above: Col Troy Keith, CO of the
14th FG, and a principal reason for
the group's outstanding record.
DUC for the 82nd. Lt Tom jones flew one of
the Lightnings:
'The Germans and Italian first put up about
70 fighter, Macchi 202s, Reggiane 2001s, and
Mel09 . A we approached at about 14,OOOft
from the ea we could ee the dust trails
, d '
made by their take-ofE from several fiel .
The confrontation developed into a avage
running battle and, jones continue:
'Never before or since have I een so many
aircraft in one area in combat. What an air
battle! A total of 220 aircraft, of which 145
were fighters! .
'We were using our escort
consisted of flight of four P-38s In trail,
scissoring with four other four-plane elements
above and around the B-25s when they hit u .
Everywhere one looked P-38 or .an enemy
fighter was in a steep dive or spiral, some
smoking, to plunge into the Bay of Naples or
the adjacent sea.
'Of cour e, we had to drop our two 165-
gallon pylon tank immediaterly, and it wa
350 miles over water back to home base. Talk
about ga rationing and leaning-out. They
followed us out to almost 100 miles
Naples. Some of us make it:-headed
for the 31 t American Spltfire trlP on the
north coast of Sicily to refuel ... I got an
Me109, right on the deck, not 100 yards
away, cro sing in front of me. The battle had
worked down to just above the urface of the
sea ...
The 82nd FG lost 10 P-38 that day. The
Group downed 16 Mel09s, five Macchi
2015, one Reggiane 2001, one Fw190, and
\ n unidentihed fighter destroyed in a
ollision. In addition, five Mel09s were listed
t probable, and eight a damaged. The price
a high, but all of the Mitchells returned
n 9 September 1943, six days after
ntgomery landed in extreme outhern
It ly, the US 5th Army, under General Mark
lark, taged an as ault landing on beache
o ar Salerno, 25 miles outh-ea t of Naples.
he Germans reacted so violently that the
I ue on the ground was in doubt for a week,
while the Luftwaffe struck at the beachhead
ith up to 100 plane at a time.
nee again, the P-38s were called in a the
llies' top guns. The recent air offen ive had
reduced P-38 trength in the theatre to less
than 250 machines, spread among the three
ightning groups; but al 0 available were
two groups of A-36 Mustangs, one group of
U SpitfIres, and 18 squadrons of RAF
pitflres. It wa barely enough, and every
rviceable Allied fighter wa ordered to fly
two sortie per day. Escort, strafmg, and
b mbing mi sion were flown in a eemingly
odie procession, including another sweep
) the Foggia airfield on 18 September that
troyed almost 300 enemy airplanes and
liders, until 27 September when the Foggia
h ld were occupied by the 8th Army. Three
J y later, the US 5th Army was in Naples,
nd the P-38 group enjoyed a brief respite.
With Italy's urrender, about 225 Italian
Ircraft were flown to Sicily by their pilot to
jom the Allies. They were held out of combat
until Italy officially declared war on
Germany on 13 October. Then, three days
later, Italian pilots flying Macchi C205s flew
top cover for the 82nd FG as it dive-bombed
enemy hipping in Levka Channel.
Meanwhile, Italian pilot who remained
ympathetic to the Axi cause were
incorporated into a German ftghter quadron
(IIIJG 77) with their Macchi C205s to form
I Italian Fighter Group. The possibility of
Italian er u Italian, in identical aircraft, thus
On 1 November 1943 the US 15th AF was
formed in Italy, with the Foggia airfields as it
principal home. General Doolittle was the
15th' fir t commander, though General
Nathan Twining soon took over when
Doolittle went to England. All of the
Lightnings in the threatre were transferred to
the new 15th AF, the 1st, 14th, and 82nd FGs,
as well as the 5th photo Recon Group.
The German ground force had fallen back
to strong defen ive po itions anchored on
towering peak around the town of Cassino,
orne 90 mile outh of Rome. This was the
'Winter Line', and the enemy would hold it
throughout the winter and into the pring of
1944. jack Lenox of the 49th FS, 14th FG,
'During thi time, a lot of our mis ions were
trafing and dive-bombing in support of the
troops at Anzio. On 22 january 1944 British
and American troop landed at Anzio, 60
mile behind the Winter Line; but the
Germans kept them confmed to the
beachhead area throughout the winter. They
couldn't break-out. It wa all they could do
to hold on.
Top left: In June 1944, the shuttle
missions to Russia began when Lt
Everett Thies Aew his F-5C-1
Lightning into the USSR and back.
With Thies is hi crew chief, T/Sgt
Daniel Noble. / USAF
Bottom left: Russians come to gape at
the F-5 Doc Dash. A month later,
General D. C. Strother, 306th
Fighter Wing Commander, led 70
15th AF Lightning and 50
Mu tang to Rus ia and back on a
grand fighter weep. / AF
Below: Lt Thomas W. mith, 37th
F ,14th FG, collided almo t head-
on with an Me109 on 16January
1944. The 109' wing was sheared
off; the P-38 10 t an engine and
suffered a severed tail but returned
to base for a wheels-up landing.
/ Bob Margison
'Our route to the target area wa from our
airfield at Foggia aero s Italy to Naple , out
to sea, and up the coast to Anzio. We
returned the arne way. But one day we
'ded to take a short-cut home and we ran
into very heavy and uncomfortably accurate
flak. Lt Paul Wingert got it in b th engines
and had to bailout. He had hi problem. on
he way down with tangled shroud line and
a streaming parachute, but managed to get
the canopy opened at a very low altitude.
'Now, Paul didn't ee it, but below wa an
American infantry squad that, after day in
the mud with nothing but cold ration, was
queueing-up for a hot meal. Paul landed at
the head of the chow line just as the cook
yelled, "Come and get it!" Though a bit
shaken Paul looked about him, his face
blossomed into a smile, he picked up a mess
kit and proceeded to be the first one through
the chow line.'
During February. the 15th AF in Ital y and the
8th AF in England began to co-ordinate mn
air attack deeper and deeper mto Germany.
The ground war in Italy wa bogged down,
but the long-legged P-3 s could range well
into Europe from Foggia, e pecially, after the
P-38Js beg., arriving in March.
The P-38J models were significantly
superior to all previou Lightning. Powered
with V-1710-89/91 engines of l,325hp
(1,600hp war the J had a
maximum speed of420mph at 25,OOOft and an
initial climb-rate, with military load, of
/. II " W l"h,cf'Gracle' Allen
h Ip 14th fG Oble Taylor
trl mto Pat II/ r. r a mis ion.
I Oliver B. Taylor
Flag ship of the 14th FG at
Italy mld-1944. Group CO
Taylor taxIS down the p P. Group
mblem IS on left engine nacelle.
/ Ohller B. Taylor
&1011': cw p-, 1-15 at Mateur.
Tuni la 111 hte hbru.lf\ 1944, on its
yay to the ht FG.1l Italy.
/ Kumtlll \f \11111/11)'
3,9OOfpm which eroded les than 25 per cent
through 25,OOOft. The J was the fIrSt
Lightning with adequate cockpit heating, and
with circuit breakers to cure it electrical ill .
The P-38J-10 and onward pos e ed flat,
bulletproof windscreens and, beginning with
the P-38J-25s, hydraulic aileron boo t and
electrically-activated dive brakes were added.
Weighing 13,7001b empty, and up to 24,000lb
loaded, the e Lightnings had a normal range
of 2,300miles with 1,010gal (US) of fuel.
Here at last, was the Lightning for all eason,
and all mission .
On 2 April the three P-38 group in Italy
were able to te t substantially their new J
models against the Luftwaffe. The mi sion
called for the largest aerial force yet
assembled in the theatre, to bomb the ball-
bearing plant and aircraft factory at Steyr,
Austria, with 450 heavy bombers.
The 82nd FG provided initial e cort for the
bombers and was jumped at 10.15hrs by 50
Me109, Fw190s and Macchi 202s which
attacked at bomber level, head-on, eager to
engage the Lightnings. Another formation of
enemy aircraft was stalking at 35,000ft clearly
hoping to see the P-38s drawn away from the
bombers. But the 82nd stuck to it, and got
three Messerschmitts in the bargain.
Picking up the bomber at 10.45hr,
Thunderbolts of the 325th FG (the famed
'Checkertails,' who had flown W-arhawk in
North Africa) flew shotgun for the 'Big
Friends' almost to the target, warding off
another attack by 21 Me109s. Then, at
11.30hrs, the 1st FG arrived to take over the
escort duty and was in turn obliged to deal
with 70 enemy fIghters in the target area.
Above: Lt Herbert B. Hatch
to the of his battle with
Fw190s0n 10)une 1944, in which
he shot down f,ve I90s in a single
lSo-degree turn. He was, however,
the only 71st F pilot to return to
base that day. The battle occurred
over Ploesti. / USAF
Left: Lt-Col Ben A. Ma on)r,
Deputy Group Commander, 2nd
FG, put b mb on the target at
Plocsti, strafed Aak batteries,
destroyed two locomotives, and
hot down an Mella on that costly
10)une raid. / Ben Mason
Above: Small World Dept: Lt Tom
Maloney, an eight-victory ace of
the 27th FS, 1st FG, recalled that co-
author's father, Ervin Ethell (14th
FG),.raught gunnery to Maloney at
Lomita AAB. / w. H. Caughlin
Left: General Nathan Twining
listens as Lt Richard T. Andrews
tells how he landed in enemy
territory to pick-up another 82nd
FG pilot who had crash-landed.
Capt Richard Will ie rode home on
the lap of Andrew. / Ben Mason
Above: A Lightning of the 96th FS,
82nd FG, drors its bombs. On the
Ploesti raid 0 10June 1944 the 82nd
escorted by the 1st FG, attacked the
oil refineries and met
overwhelming oppo ition. The
82rld traded eight P-38s for three of
the enemy; the 1st FG lost 14
Lightnings for claims of20 German
fighter. / U AF
Centre right: Lightning of the 27th
FS, 1st FG, in the classic 'Finger-
Four' tandard tactical formation.
Two near planes areJ-15s, in
background are two L-1 models.
S/nsare: 4 2 1 0 4 4 ~ 8 43-28650,
44-24379, and 44-24217.
/ Waffell Campbell
Bottom right: By mid-August 1944
some P-38L-ls were arriving in
Italy. This one belonged to the 94th
FS, 1 t FG. / Frallns j. Pope
At that point, ruffles and flourishe would
have been appropriate, because the 14th FG
came charging in for its rendezvous with the
bombers and joined the battle. With 80
Lightnings of the 1st and 14th fighting
together, only six of the enemy fighters
managed to get through to the bomber, and
two of those were destroyed, two damaged,
by P-38s of the 49th FS.
At 12.05hrs, a the first box of bombers
came off the target, 40 Mell0s and Me210s,
with single-engine fighter e cort, carne in to
release rockets, flying four abreast in
successive waves. Elements of the 48th FS
forced the twin-engine craft to break
formation, pur ued, and destroyed 12 of them
in a 20-minute running battle.
In the interim, the 37th FS, which had
taken over top cover protection of the
bomber, destroyed six of the enemy,
damaged one, and scored two probabies
without acriflcing po ition.
As the enemy broke-off the engagement,
the 14th FG regrouped and stayed with the
bombers until reaching a point just south of
Klagenfurt. There, with no losses to count,
but fuel gauges pointing below the prudence
level, they returned to Foggia. The Lightning
pilot were mightily pleased with their new
machines, particularly Lt Robert Siedman
who exulted, 'Boy, I'll bet Hitler would be
real mad if he knew that a little Jewish boy
had shot down three of his pilots today!'
Similar mission followed throughout
April and May of 1944, and the effect on the
defending forces is apparent when Luftwaffe
records for those dates are examined. JG 27
and IV,jG 77, responsible for the air defence
of the Austrian sector, had but 124 single-
engine fighters among them at the end of
May, only 79 of which were operational. By
that time the 15th AF could send over
Austria, on a single raid, 187 Lightnings,
50 Thunderbolts, and 48 Mustangs.
The P- 51 Mu tang belonged to the
31 t FG, which was trading its Spitfires for
Throughout June the 15th AF brought
about an almo t complete stoppage of rail
traffic in Italy, and on 4June Allied troops
entered Rome. With D-Day in Normandy
only two days away, the focus of the Allied
war against Germany shifted to France, along
with a gradual diminution of Allied strength
in Italy. Neverthele ,the Allies remained on
the offensive, pushing back the Germans to a
new defensive position in the Northern
Apennines. The Allies were unable to break
out of these mountains into the Po River
valley until the following spring, so the war
in Italy would extend through another
During the invasion of Southern France
that started on 15 Augu t, the 1st and
14th FGs flew strafmg missions in direct
support, from an airfield in Cor ica; while
the 82nd FG escorted heavy bombers to the
area from Foggia. By the 20th, more than
1,000 sorties were flown, the 14th FG flying
18 missions and the 1 t FG flying 21 missions
on the fmt day. During those five days 23
Lightnings were lost.
Above: A 1 t FG Lightning touches
down on a Corsican airfield during
the Southern France Invasion of
August 1944. / Frallns j. Pope
Right: rew Chief Ralph P. Willett
with his F-5A-10 (s/n 42-13095),
12th Ph ,3rd PhGr, Florence, Italy,
October 1944. Machine was 'gray-
white mist' colour, with red prop
spinner. LOllise on left engine
nacelle. / Ralph P. Willett
Belotv: Home of the 3rd PhGr,
con isting of the 5th, 12th and 23rd
PhSs. The 3rd remained in the 12th
AF while the P-3 group
tran ferred to the 15th AF in
November 1943. Its sister unit, the
5th PRG, formed in August 1943,
shared this field at Florence, but
belonged to the 15th AF. / USAF
With September came an almo t total lack
f opposition from the Luftwaffe over Italy.
uring that month, the 14th FG did not
encounter a single enemy aircraft in the
course of 18 mi ion to Yugo lavia,
Hungary, Germany, Au tria, Czech-
lovakia, and Greece. The 82nd FG would
claim only four more aerial victories, one of
them being a P-51 Mu tang!
On 29 October the 82nd flew penetration
e cort for B-24s to Munich. Before the
rendezvous point wa reached, a lone P-51B
lid into formation with an element of the
95th FS P-38s, at time flying on the wing of
t Lee Carr. The bombers were picked up
nd e corted to Munich. After leaving the
bomber, most of the 2nd pilot hit the deck
to trafe targets of opportunity. When low on
mmunition they rejoined, and flew in
c mpany with Lt Hawthorn, who had been
hit by ground fire and wa returning ingle-
The P-51 reappeared and made everal
pa es on the formation of Lightnings, but
each time a P-38 turned into it and it banked
way. Finally, it made a traight pa s for Lt
Hawthorn, gun firing, but Lt Eldon
Coulson, with a 45-degree deflection, raked it
from no e to cockpit with his .50 and
cannon. The Mu tang rolled over, went into
a pin, and crashed inverted.
Coulon, of cour e, pent some leeple
night over the incident until headquarters
advised that no P-51s were then assigned to
combat operations, and that this one, without
drop tanks, wa beyond range of any Allied
ba e. Since it was known that the German
were using at least two Mustangs for this sort
of thing, Coulon was credited with a
confirmed victory.
Through November, the ground attack
missions continued. The P-38s flew e cort for
the 3rd and 5th photo/recce F-5s into
Germany; and when the 82nd FG received a
'Droop Snoot' Lightning, one which had a
scal d-down version of a Fortres no e,
containing a Norden bomb ight, other
P-38 temporarily became 'B-38 , for
high-level bombing run led by the 'Droop
Snoot'. Just name it; the Lightning could do
December offered more of the same,
although bomber e cort mis ions were
stepped up a the heavys concentrated on oil
BeIOlv: COllp de Grace: The 14th FG
strikes at the Weiheim marshalling
yard in Germany on 19 April 1945.
Note P-38 over lower third of the
rail yard. / AF
Above: 'Droop Snoot' Lightnings
were fitted with Norden bomb ight
and carried bombardier in
greenhou e. Accompanying 'B-38 '
released bombs on ignal from
'Droop Snoot'. / U AF
Top right: Bombardier could not
wear parachute in restricted no e
area of 'Droop Snoots', and could
not exit aircraft in flight. / AF
&Uom right: The P-38 'Pathfinder'
was equipped with ground-
mapping radar to lead bomb-laden
P-38 to targets in cloud-obscured
areas. / Mitch Maybom
refmeries in the Reich, and the e targets did
provoke fighter opposition.
With the new year came empha i on
strafing and bombing mi ion in the
Northern Apennines Campaign, a the Allie
ought to breach the German defence north
of the Arno River, where the enemy had
dug-in the previous September. During
February 1945 the 14th FG alone destroyed
more than 100 locomotives in support of this
drive. Also in February, four Lightning of
the 49th FS, riding shotgun for an F-5, were
bounced by an Me262 jet fighter in the
Munich area, and although they were unable
to bring their guns to bear on him, they al 0
eluded the jet. The German jet, of course,
were too few and too late.
The Allie controlled the air and roamed
Germany at will a the heavie continued to
pound strategic targets, and the P-38s
dropped down to trafe target of
opportunity. The rule for strafmg was, 'Low,
fast, and once. '
On 24 March the 1 t FG formed part of the
escort as 15th AF bomber went to Berlin for
the fir t time. Two week later, the Allied
ground offen ive to break out of the
Apennines was begun and the P-38 were
called upon for direct tactical upport. On
11 April 40 Lightning de troyed 84
locomotive and 43 oil car and till found
time to attack enemy position in the
mountain. But it wa dangerou work, and
15 Lightning were lost with many other
damaged on 14 April alone.
On 20 April dive-bombing P-38s cut in 40
places the rail lines leading from the northern
entrance to the Brenner Pa s, attacked seven
rail yard between Inn bruck and Rosenheim,
and cut four railway bridge. On the
following day, the railway line between
Ro enheim and Munich were accorded
imilar treatment.
Three days earlier, the US 5th Army broke
out of the mountain, cro sed the main road
west of Bologna, and truck north towards
the Po, with the 15th AF wreaking havoc on
the roads ahead. Trapped between the
5th Army and the British 8th Army were
thou ands of German. Many more thousands
fled northwards, only to be halted by the
blown bridges and lack of fuel. On 2 May
1945 nearly a million Germans surrendered,
and the war in Italy ended.
From the time the P-38 groups joined the
15th AF, Lightning were airborne 44,296
times, with 3,814 early returns due to weather
or mechanical or other problems, making this
airplane 84 per cent effective in combat
operations. In 4,004 encounters with enemy
aircraft the P-38 de troyed 60 , probably
destroyed 123, and damaged 343. That results
in 15.2 enemy aircraft de troyed per 100
encounters. A total of 131 Lightning were
lost to the enemy, or 3.3 per 100 encounters.
The average 10 rate wa 1.27 per 100 ortie
to all cause, flak, enemy aircraft, mechanical,
and unknown, while this airplane was
operational 75 per cent of the time. A 'sortie'
is one plane, one mis ion. Thu , 40 aircraft on
a single mi sion i recorded as 40 sorties.
The Lightning did not win the war in Italy.
However, as in the Pacific, it was the fighter-
bomber-recce aircraft for that time and place.
Top right: P-38H-1 of the 343rd FS,
55th FG. / AF
&110/11 right: Machines of the 3 th
FS, 55th FG, return to base at
Nuthampstead following an e cort
mission on 15 October 1943.
/ AF
Below: Lightning P-38H-5s of the
33 th FS, 55th FG, at Bassingbourn
with the 91 t BG for a bomber
support mi ion, 12 December 1943.
/ AF
When we look at the Lightning's record in
the European Theatre of Operations, the first
que tion that begs an answer is why that
record should appear to be, in contrast to
P-38 performances elsewhere, omewhat
uninspiring. But then, considering the several
factors that weighed so heavily against the P-
38 groups in England, the second question
becomes: How did they ever manage to do so
well as they did?
Most, or at least the most vocal P-38 pilots
and commanders in England, blamed the
airplane for all their troubles, and to a great
extent they were right. During the critical,
first months of combat operation in the
winter of 1943-44, the 20th and 55th FGs
were equipped with P-38H models; and
although the G and H models had already
e tablished outstanding record in the SW
Pacific and in the MTO, Lightning pilot in
those theatre had e1dom had to fight above
30,00Oft and had not been forced to fly for
long hours at those altitudes at temperature
approaching tho e prevailing above Europe
10 wintertime. Therefore, the 8th AF
Lightning pilots were the first to face this
problem on a daily basis. More than any
other ingle factor, the P-3 's lack of
adequate windscreen defrosting and cockpit
heating (prior to the J models) eriously
diminished its effectivene s in the bomber-
escort role over Europe. Every ex-Lightning
pilot of the 20th and 55th FG that the authors
contacted, voiced this complaint above any
other when describing those difficult time.
Pilots are human; and when numbed beyond
caring by prolonged, intense cold, they are
robbed of both judgement and aggressivene s.
That this condition wa not corrected via
field modification to the aircraft, surely, a
reasonably easy ta k for the Mod Centre at
Langford Lodge, appear inexcusable, but no
more so, perhap , than the fact that bolt-on
dive flap, perfected and approved in April
1943, would not be in tal led on P-38s until
June 1944.
The P-38s prior to the J models suffered
other major weakne es at high altitude. The
supercharger inter-cooler system caused a
number of engine failures, especially at the
hand of inexperienced pilots. The H model
was the fir t P-38 with automatic engine
controls, including automatic oil radiator
flaps. Nevertheless, it was still ea y to over-
boo t the engine with a heavy hand on the
The P-38H models, with 900gal fuel, had a
range of 2,000 miles at max cruise and
25,OOOft. Maximum speed at 25,OOOft was
402mph, and 350mph at 5,OOOft. Initial climb
rate was 2,800fpm, which was down to
l,700fpm at 25,oooft. Service ceiling wa in
the vicinity of 40,000ft. Engine were the
Allison F-15 series, V-1710-89/91 USAAF
designation, normally rated at l,325hp each,
l,425hp at take-off, and l,250hp at 25,000ft.
These same engines would produce more
power at altitude on the J models due to re-
design of the inter-cooling system.
There was another factor that urely
affected the performance of many P-38 pilots
in the 8th AF, and that was low morale
through the Winter of 1943-44. In January
1944 Col George Doherty, CO of the
50th FS, arrived in England to form a recce
unit, and he recalls this ituation: 'I was
appalled when I learned that the P-38 fliers in
England had an abysmally poor morale
because of the high incidence of non-returns
suffered by them ... it eemed to me that the
P-38 pilots almost expected each mission to
bt: their last ... '
When we queried former 20th FG pilot
Royal Frey about this, he replied, 'Well,
those Allison "time bombs" didn't help any.
That's the term we commonly used when
referring to our engine. And there
were many ca es of fro tbite. The lack
of adequate cockpit heating went far
beyond simple discomfort at those
altitude; it was enervating In the
Still, most profes ional military people will
surely agree that morale is largely a matter of
proper leadership. During the early, dark
days of the war in the Philippine, the
abandoned, half- tarved, overwhelmingly-
outnumbered remnants of the 24th Pursuit
Group not only fought with airplanes
repaired with bridge timbers and telephone
wire, but found a certain humour in the
ituation, which prompted them to ignal:
'Send us another P-40. The one we have is
full of holes.'
Contrast that with the attitude of the
8th AF Group Commander who derisively
referred to the P-38 as an 'airborne ice-
wagon', and something les than a 'real'
ftghter; or that of the 20th FG Colonel who
generously allowed that the P-38 was the
'fifth best fighter in the ETa,' ranking
behind the P-51, P-47, Me109, and Fw190.
Both of the e men had demonstrated
unquestioned courage in combat but their
atritudes toward their command respon i-
bilitie appear more like that of the man
about whom it was said that he was indeed
fortunate to have a wife, because he wa
certain to have problems that could not be
blamed on the government.
Marking these several handicaps, perhaps
we shall be betrer equipped to appreciate the
courage and devotion to duty that
characterised the performances of the
Lightning pilots in the ETa.
The ftrst of them to enter combat arrived in
England in September 1943, as the 55th FG,
con isting of the 38th, 338th, and 343rd FSs.
The 55th was based at Nuthampstead,
Hertford, and became operational on
15 October with a tentative ftghter sweep
over Holland. There was no contact with the
In addition to the 55th FG, the 8th AF
Fighter Command at that time contained nine
Thunderbolt group; but the P-47s could
range only as far as the German border,
leaving the bomber to go it alone into
Germany. Therefore, the 55th FG' P-38 ,
along with those of the 20th FG, which
would become operational six weeks later,
would have the primary mission of long-
range bomber support.
The nece sity for uch support was shown
in dramatic fa hion only one day before the
55th began operation, when the US
8th Bomber Command lost 60 Fortre ses out
of291 that struck at the ball-bearing works in
Long-range bomber escort usually meant
that the P-38s would rendezvou with the
bomber as the P-47s or Spitfire turned
back at the limit of their operating range,
and tay with the heavies until other P-47s
could pick up the bomber on their way
Top left: Lt Gerald A. Brown, 38th
F ,55th FG, accounted for three
Me109s and two Fwl90s through
mid-1944. / Gerald Braum
Bottom left: P-38H-5 of the 55th FS,
20th FG, flown by Lt Royal Frey.
Frey was hot down 10 February
1944, and spent the rest of the war
as a POW. / Royal Frey
BelolV: The 20th FG was initially
stationed at Wittering, an RAF
station (above); later flew from
King's Cliff, Northamptonshire.
/ Royal Frey
An F-5 Lightning buzze the 91 t
BG base at Bassingbourn. Briti h
light tramp rts n apron appear to
be Air peed Couriers. / AF
The Combined Bomber Offen ive again t
trategic targets deep in Germany had begun
in Augu t, and resulted from Allied deci ions
made at the Ca ablanca Conference the
previous January. Prime Minister Churchill
and President Ro evelt had agreed that the
RAF, with maximum effort, would raid by
night, while the USAAF would do the arne
by day.
The 55th FG flew three bomber e cort
mi ion during October, but encountered
almost no enemy air opposition. The
20th FG, based at King's Cliffe,
Northampton, received a few P-38s and sent
them to fly with the 55th FG, rotating pilots
to give ea-::h a little experience.
The American contribution to the
Combined Bomber Offen ive increased
slowly if teadily. During November, the
55th FG, usually accompanied by 8-10
Lightnings from the 20th FG (which had
received nly 16 machine ), flew 10 bomber
e cort mi sions to Mun ter, Bremen,
Solingen, and target in We tern Germany, a
well a trike again t Luftwaffe ba e in
France. The 55th FIt 12 Lightning while
claiming 1 enem aircraft de troyed. The
20th FG 10 t five and had no claim.
The first big air battle for the P-38s came
on 29 November over Bremen when the 55th
traded seven P-38s for seven of the
enemy. Sixteen Lightnings returned to
ba e with varying degrees of damage.
Lt Joe Myer describes his view of that
'I wa flying with my element leader, Lt
Gerald Brown, about 10 miles outh-west of
Bremen on a 210-degree heading at 29,000ft,
our flight having been split up due to enemy
attacks. 1 observed a Ju88 approaching the
middle box of bombers from the four o'clock
position and at bomber level of 26,000ft. We
immediately initiated an attack upon him
from above and behind. He observed our
attack, fired his rockets and dived away to the
right. 1clo ed to within about 500Jards, fired
a six-second burst, and observe his right
engine moking violently.
'We were losing altitude rapidly, so
consequently I broke off the attack and pulled
up into a spiralling zoom. As I did. so, I
observed an Me109 on my wingman's tail
about 50 yards behind him. I called him on
the R!T, warning him, and advised him to
kid until I could position myself for an
'Lt Brown took violent evasive action,
doing dives, zooms, skid, rolls, and various
other manoeuvre, but the German continued
to follow about 50 yards behind, firing
continually. In the meantime, I moved to a
position about 400 yards behind the Me109,
and u ing full throttle was able to work up on
his tail to a po ition about 150 yard behind
him. I had already fired three or four high
deflection hot of one or two econd'
duration at the German, but without
noticeable results.
'Finally, Lt Brown tried a skidding barrel
roll, but the Messerschmitt followed and put
a long burst into Lt Brown' right engine
causing heavy, brown smoke to pour out. As
the German fired, I fired a five second burst at
no-deflection from the inverted po ition. His
engine, burst into flames and pieces of the
plane flew all over the sky. I passed within
50ft of him and observed fire from the engine
streaming back over the fuselage. Lt Brown
feathered his right engine and wa able to
make it back to our home ba e.'
The 55th FG, with it guest from the
20th FG, tangled with the enemy again on 26
and 29 November as the bombers returned to
Bremen, and to Solingen in the Ruhr. On
5 December the bombers went almo t 500
miles to Bordeaux, with P-47 providing
penetration and withdrawal upport, while
the 55th FG's P-38s covered the heavies in the
target area. No attacks were made on the
bombers while under Lightning escort.
Relatively few air battles were fought by
the P-38 group in December, mostly because
of the weather, On tbe 13th they flew a
Abol/e: Lt-Gen Jimmy Doolittle, 8th
AF ommander, takes P-38H-5, sin
42-68972 for a short flight on
23 March 1944. The c/n remains on
nose of this ne, th ugh it usually
gave way to decoration or buzz
number. I . AF
~ { t Lightning F-5 of the 7th Photo
Group on the strip at Mount Farm,
England. I lJ. AF
Abol/e: Lt-Col Cy Wilson led the
55th FS, 20th FG, and became
Group ommander 25June 1944;
was shot down to become a POW,
and returned to active service with
the 20th FG 16June 1945. I USAF
Abol/e left: Decision, deci ions. Top
American and British air
commanders, General 'Hap' Arnold
and Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur
Harris. I USAF
Left: Lt- olJackJenkins, 55th FG
CO, describes recent air action with
typical Ayer' ge tures to Lt-Col
Russ Gustke. Deputy Group
Commander, 20th FG. I U AF
Above: Flak damage; 79th F ,20th
FG. / U AF Museum
Top riglrt: P-38J-IO at Langford
Lodge, Ireland. The fir t J models
entered service with the th AF in
England during April 1944. / AF
Bollom riglrt: Lt Noah Ray Tipton of
the 38th FS. 55th FG. with Noalr 5
Ark. a P-38J-IO. c/n 2482.
/ N. Ray Tipton
fighter sweep over France, while the new
P-51 Mu tangs of the 9th AF's 354th FG flew
their first long-range mi sion, taking the
bombers to Kiel.
On 28 December the 20th FG became fully
operational, and almost at once began a serie
of bomber support missions that, during the
next 65 days, would range from the
Cherbourg Peninsula to Berlin. The 20th FG.
it should be noted, wa commanded at that
time by Col Barton Russell, a fine leader who
had little patience with those who derided the
P-38. In this he was well supported by Lt-Col
Rus ell Gustke and Maj Frank Clark,
formerly of the 14th FG, and veteran of the
North African Campaign.
On 29 January Col Ru sell led the 20th FG
as it participated in the biggest raid yet put
together by the 8th AF, sending 900 heavies
to strike at Frankfurt. Sharing the fighter
escort duties were 12 additional fighter
groups, including the P-38-equipped 55th FG
which would, along with the 20th, and the
Mustang-mounted 354th, cover the heavies
over the target area.
Approximately 80 enemy ingle-engine
fighters, and 40 twin-engine fighters
attempted to attack the bomber; and of the
42 claimed destroyed by the various fighter
groups, the 20th FG accounted for 10 and the
55th FG got six. Nine Lightnings were 10 t,
two by collision.
At 11.21hr a the 20th FG approached its
rendezvous with the bombers, ju t we t of the
target, the heavies were being attacked. The
20th's 54 Lightning immediately joined the
Capt Lindol Graham cho e an Fw190 on
the tail box of bombers, fired a no-deflection
burst from tlle rear, and the enemy exploded.
On the way out, near Lille, while covering
some cripples, Graham spotted two Fw190s
attacking one of them. He clo ed from 200
yards to 75 yard, giving each a hort bur t
from his cannon and .50s. Both Focke Wulf
exploded and fell in flames. It was later found
that Graham expended ju t 5 3 rounds of .50-
calibre and 36 cannon shells on the three
victorie .
In the interim, Lts Russell Bond and his
wingman Robert Flynn destroyed an Me210
in their cro sfire, but then collided and
tumbled to earth with their tricken enemy.
While thi was happening, Capt Jerome
Serros, leading the 55th FS' Yellow Flight,
and his wingman, Lt Chester Hallberg,
boxed-in an MellO that was attacking
traggling B-24 . The 110 exploded after a
four-second bur t at very close range and
Hallberg flew through the debris.
Meanwhile, Maj Richard Ott flamed an
MellO with a dead astern shot, then shared an
Me210 with Lt Walker Whiteside, taking it
off the tail of Lt Robert Mo s. Maj Ott' left
engine blew at that point and an Mel09
immediately fell upon him, but Lt White ide
sent it down in flames.
Lt Royal Frey in the meantime was
pressing home his attack on an MellO, despite
accurate return fire from its rear gunner. Frey
silenced the gunner, then exploded the 110
fuel tanks, although his P-38 was extensively
damaged in the nose and right-engine nacelle.
Assuming that the above-mentioned pilots
were typical of 20th FG per onnel, we traced
their records to learn how they later fared. Lt
Frey was shot down less than two weeks later
to become a POW. Maj Ott was KIA the
very next day. Lt White ide was KIA the
following August. Capt Graham was KIA in
March: Capt Serros was KIA in November
1944; and Lt Hallberg, after 300 combat
hours;- returned to the US. Clearly, flying a
fighter airplane over Hitler's Europe was a
job with a very limited future.
But the 8th and 9th Fighter Commands
continued the job, of course, and with ever
i n r e s i ~ ~ strength. Five additional Lighming
groups Jomed the 8th and 9th AFs during the
spring of 1944. In February, the 370th FG was
added to. the 9th AF, followed by the
474th FG m March and the 367th FG in April.
The 8th AF gained the 364th FG in March,
and the 479th FG in May. The 7th PhGr had
been flying F-5 Lighmings with the 8th AF
since the previous November.
Throughout the pring of 1944 the trategic
air war again t Germany kept the P-3
groups busy with bomber upp rt mi ion,
and meanwhile their effectivene increa ed
with introduction of the J model Lightnings.
A few P-38J-5 had arrived in England a
early as the previous December, alth ugh the
)-10 and J-15 version were not in general u e
until April 1944.
Cockpit heating and wind creen defr ting
sy tems were greatly improved in the J
models, and the old circular control wheel
was cut-down to a rams-horn type.
Externally, the mo t noticeable chan e was
the deep intake beneath the propeller which
housed core-type radiators, replacing the
inter-cooler sy tem previou ly contained in
the wings' leading edges. Thi arrangement
not only gave ~ pilot direct contr I v ~ hi
inter-cooler, ehmmatll1g orne of the en me-
failure cau e of the pa t, but al 0 made ro m
for another 110 gallon of fuel in the wing,
which showed up in ome J-l0s, and all J-15
and subsequent Lightning. E pecially
appreciated, wa the added power and
performance provided by the new inter-
cooler system above 25,000ft.
'Big Week' for the American bomber
offen ive came during a period of good
weather, 20-25 February, when more than
1,000 heavy bombers of the 8th AF in
England, and 500 heavies of the 15th AF in
Italy, blasted German aircraft plants. The 20th
and 55th FGs put up an average total of 90
Lightnings for each raid, and though they
aw ome action, most of the air fighting
involved the Thunderbolt groups. An
intelligence bulletin record it thus: 'As seems
to be his custom, the enemy did not attack the
bombers while P-38s were escorting, mo t
probably becau e 38 can be spotted from
great distances ... '
On 3 March the 20th and 55th FG went to
Berlin for rendezvous with the bombers, but
the heavies were recalled because of weather.
Therefore, the P-51s had the di tinction of
flying the fir t US bomber escort to Berlin on
the following day.
A new kind of mi sion began for the P-38
on 10 April after the Lightning group
received several P-38J-15 converted to
'Droop Snoots' at Langford Lodge. The
'Droop Snoot' idea appear to have
originated at Langford Lodge, and William
Above: A P-38J-10 of the 42 th FS,
474th FG, 9th AF, skidded off
runway into deep mud at
Honington. / U AF
Left: Early take-offf, r bomber
support mission; 55th FS, 20th FG.
/ AF
Above: Element of rhe 383rd F ,
364rh FG, 9rh AF, which entcrcd
combar in April 1944.; U. AF
L ~ { t D-Day, 6June 1944, rhc
invasion of Europe. This is how ir
lookcd ro an F-S pilor ovcr onc of
rhe beachheads.; U AF
Above cemre: Lr James K. Kunklc of
rhe 40lsr F 370rh FG, which flcw
from 'A-I' strip on Omaha Bcach
in rhc days following rhc invasion.
; JOllies K'I/Ikle
Above right: Capr Vincc Hanncn,
434rh FS, 479rh FG, and his
P-38J-15. The 479th uffercd high
losses due to irs large number of
srrafing missions.; T. R. Bellllett
R ~ h t Locomorive bu ring wa, a
high prioriry rask for rhc Lip;hrnings
in rhc post-inva ion period as
racrical fighrcr oughr to disrupr
enemy upply, communicarions,
and rroop movemenrs.; USAF
Carter, the military inspector for tooling and
assembly there, says he selected 17 aircraft
that had been returned from service with
combat units for the first conversions. Other
'Droop Snoots' were soon born of field
modification in other war theatres, a few
reportedly retaining a couple of guns. Some
brand new 'Droop Snoots' were eventually
produced by the Dallas Modification Centre.
Later, the Pathfinder version appeared,
containing ground-mapping radar in an
elongated nose for bomb-aiming through
cloud cover.
The 55th FG flew its first 'Droop Snoot'
mission with two squadron carrying one
1,ooOlb general purpose bomb and one drop
tank on each plane, while the third squadron
flew shotgun for them. Led by the 'Droop
Snoot' Lightning, the others released their
bombs on his signal. Their target was the
airfield at St Oizier, but finding it socked-in
by weather, the group hit the Coulonniers
field in tead.
The 20th FG flew a 'Droop Snoot' mission
on the same day, taking 26 Lightnings, each
with a 1,ooOlb bomb, to the airdrome at
Giitersloh, Germany.
Other 'Droop Snoot' missions followed
throughout May and June, the 'B-38s' usually
bombing from 20,ooOft. After bomb release,
they went to the deck to strafe. The
Lightnings continued long-range bomber
escort as a primary duty, with dive-bombing,
strafmg and 'Droop Sno t' 1111
the dates between.
The 474th FG, 9th AF, b' .11111
in April, and Col (ret) Ll d \\
328th FS flew both 'Dr p
Pathfmder missions:
'We fa hioned plywood wa b r
angle-iron affixed to the win
belly bands on 2,ooOlb bomb
deliver a 4,ooOlb load. That I d, I
exceeded the strength of the b Illl I
which called for low-G man u I
multiple drop (once, only n', I I
toggled-off and the recovery t k I
and all). The plywood way bi' I J
havoc with the aft boom and hili I
surfaces when the bombs were r Ie ('tI,
finally gave up the 4,ooOlb load.
'The 474th was the only P-3 tllill I
ETO at the end of the war. W' J' I I
General Quesada to let up kC'J! Iii
when other groups were h.III\ I
P-51s ... we had solved the pr bll'lll
detonation at altitude becau e It .
cooling in the under lung inter- I I
moved the inter-eooler door wit h I I
control yoke, and ganged that \\\ II
the gun sight and guns' hot WIlt h
wouldn't forget to open it.'
Operation Overlord, the invasi n III I
by the Allies, began before dawn III
1944. D-Day was a Tuesday. Eleven til
Allied airplanes, painted with PCt I d
and white 'invasion stripes' whi 11, I
hoped, would po itively identif th, I
friendly anti-aircraft gunner, flew mOl<
14,000 orties over the Engli h Channd
Normandy beachheads, and bey n
France in support of the landings. On
and for a week therafter, most of th
were assigned well-defmed secti n
Rigllt: A 9th AF Lightning at a
forward base in Belgium shortly
after D-Day. / AF
Below: A P-3 H-10 (s/n 42-679 7)
fthe 3rd F ,364m FC,
extensively damaged in wheels-up
landing at Honingcon. / SAF
Below rigllt: The 485th F ,37Oth FC,
carrying 500lb bombs for a dive-
bombing arrack on Von Rundstedt's
tanks and motor transport forces
just 15 mile from this airstrip in
Belgium. / SAF
Left: 01 Ben Kelsey (right) with
01 Cas Hough at Honington,
13 eptember 1944. / Merle Olmsted
airspace above the Channel to protect the
mighty shuttle of surface vessel from air
attack. The decimated Luftwaffe, however,
made few challenges.
Shortly before D-Day, the fourth and last
8th AF Lightning group entered combat as
the 479th FG became operational. By 19June
the 479th had lost eight pilots, mo tly while
strafmg in direct support of the Allied troop
in Normandy. But bolstered with some
veteran 82nd FG pilots such as Clarence
Johnson and Ward Kuentzel, the 479th
quickly matched the feats of other Lightning
groups that were disrupting the enemy's
efforts to halt the invading Allied forces.
Throughout June and July, most P-38
missions were flown in support of the heavies
which were on enemy airfield,
bridges and railroads. Droop Snoot' and
strafing missions were sprinkled between,
while enemy air opposition continued to
If the veteran 20th and 55th FGs had found
their opportunities for shooting down
significant numbers of German aircraft quite
limited, the Lightning groups that followed
them into combat found their chances almost
non-existent. The day-to-day intelligence
summaries of missions, flown by the P-38
end, with monotonous repetition:
There were no attacks on the bombers while
under P-38 escort,' or 'no ea sighted.'
This had been largely true even during late
1943 and early 1944, when the Thunderbolt
groups were fIghting large-scale air battles
almost daily. The most common explanation
for this situation was that the German fighters
were ordered to avoid combat with all Allied
. fighters if possible, and concentrate on the
bombers. Since the P-38s were easily
recognised, even at great distances, the enemy
simply attacked the bomber stream at other
Top left: Allied fighters took ver
Luftwaffe fields on the Continent a
the enemy In foreground,
48Sth FS Llghtnmg, and in
background machine of the 402nd
FS, 370th FG. / USAF
Centre left: A LightningJ-10 m del
of the 429th FS, 474th FG, returns
from a mission with one engine out
Borro/ll left: Maj R. C. 'Buck' Rogers
of the 367th FG, in France,
12 October 1944. / AF
This view of a new P-38H-S
shO:-oVmg gun-eamera pOsition
whIch resulted in blurred pictures
and many unconfirmed victories.
Camera wa switched to the left
under-wing pylon on L modds.
/ EdwardJablol/ski
Below: P-38L-1 of the 429th FS
474th \G i serviced on a grey ,
WInter s day at Ophoven Belgium
/USAF ,.
There were, of cour e, far more
Thunderbolts than Lightnings in the ETO, a
total of 22 P-47 groups in the 8th and
9th AFs, as opposed to even P-38 group, and
most of the Thunderbolt groups were there
before the fIrSt P-38 arrived.
Actually, the P-38's hi tory in the ETO i a
relatively short one (except for that of the
474th FG), becau e soon after General Jimmy
Doolittle assumed command of the 8th AF,
he decided, in the spring of 1944, to replace
all P-38s and P-47s with the new P-51 a oon
as pos ible. He could hardly go wrong,
because the Merlin-powered Mu tang wa an
excellent fighter aircraft. The only question
one might raise is: was it really needed? After
all, the rugged, battle-proven P-47 'Jug' had
already broken the back of the Luftwaffe in
aerial combat; and the fIrSt truly combat-
ready Lightning, the P-38J-25, would be
entering service in August. Doolittle may well
have been influenced, however, by the
numerous complaints against the P-38G and
early J models that accumulated during the
Left: Mobile control tower at
Ophoven appears to have been
fashioned fr m nose of a B-17.
/ AF
Rig/It: Drop tanks modified to carry
wounded requiring immecliate
attention. One of those good ideas
that didn't work out. / SAF
Be/ow right: uper SlIooper, an F-5A,
being serviced by Sgt Thoma
Bowen at Exchwege, 14 April 1945.
/ AF
Be!OlV: Lt-Col Chickering of the
367th FG at Ophoven with his
P-38L-1 GUllg Ho. / USAF
LeJr: Plotting ecti n of the 33rd
PRS prepares photos for the photo
interpreters. / lerting Wi/Ill
Below: Lightning F-5B-l of the
34th Ph ,Exchwege. Germany.
April 1945. German pris ner
marching in background. / AF
Far East Victory1944-1945 .
Left: A 475th FG Lightning r lit
Markham Valley, New UInCJ
Ever-present gra fires in thc v II
made the air trips easy t find
/ leve Birdsall via Bruce Hoy
miles to the north-east of MacArthur. In
seven months MacArthur's forces had driven
nearly 1,500 miles from the Admiralties to
Morotai; in 10 months Nimitz's forces had
advanced more than 4,500 miles from Hawaii
to the Palaus. From these hard-won bases; the
invasion of the Philippines would be
launched a month later.
During those 10 months, there were some
changes in P-38 strength in the SW Pacific. In
December 1943 the 9th FS 49th FG, and the
39th FS 35th FG, which were discu sed
earlier, had their Lightning taken from them
to provide replacement aircraft for the
475th FG. The 49th and 35th FGs were then
completely re-equipped with P-47 Thunder-
bolts, a circum tance that occasioned a choru
of angui hed erie from the pilots of the 9th
and 39th Squadron.
Therefore, during the early month of
1944, the 5th AF contained but one P-38
group, the 475th, which operated with it
own three quadron (431st, 432nd, and
433rd), plu the Lightning-equipped 80th FS
from the 8th FG.
Then, in April 1944, the 8th FG's two
remaining quadron (35th and 36th) were
equipped with P-38s to make two full-
strength Lightning groups in the 5th AF.
The Allied drive to ~ Philippines was a
giant encircling manoeuvre, consi ting of a
erie of amphibious operations by three
Allied forces, beneath skies controlled by
Allied fighters. The US Navy and Marines,
with the US 7th AF, wept aero the Central
Pacific to occupy island in the Gilberts,
Marshall, and Marianas to close off the
northern and eastern segments of the circle.
Another US Navy and Marine force, along
with the 13th AF, fought through the
Solomons to seal the outhern egment, while
MacArthur's army forces, US, Australian,
and New Zealanders, with the US 5th AF
overhead, swept northward to the
Admiraltie and the length of the New
Guinea to Morotai, clo ing the we tern
segment of the ring. The Japane e trongholds
at Rabaul on New Britain, and Truk in the
Caroline, were in the centre, denied
reinforcements, sUPflie, or the chance to
escape. The enemy attempt at all three
proved exceedingly co tly in hips, men, and
MacArthur's forces seized Morotai, just 275
miles from the outhern tip of the Philippines,
on 15 September 1944, and on the arne day
Nimitz sent the US 1st Marine Division
ashore on Peleliu in the sOl:lthern Palaus, 500
Bel tV: Capt Warren R. Lewi '
machine at Strip 3, Nadzab, in the
Markham Valley, ew Guinea,
March 1944. Thi was one of the
fir t unpainted J model to reach the
475th FG. / Carroll R. Allderson
A month later, till"
received new P-38J-1S\.
8th FSs continued with I'
ber, when the entire g"'111
Meanwhile, in Au III I
13th AF, a veteran P-40 I'
in the Solomons, W.I\ I J
P-38s and transfel 1 (,I
347th FG, to New ;,"!
assault on the Philippllll
The Sth AF, n
Ennis Whitehead, .111.1
Maj-Gen St Clair ""1 It
placed in the new r.1I I
with General Kennn I
So, at last, G Ill'!.d
with P-38s, app. P III
including tho e til. /
the 4th PhG (1 th I
His pilots wcr' pi,
Anderson rememb'l
' ... the feeling (c III
and lower at c III
mission; 16 P- .
tight as we c uld '
bringing us s I w "
valley where
flights would
because Lewi
Left: Along with improved engines
and other changes, the L model
Lighming had gun camera mounted
on left under-wing pylon to
eliminate blurred pictures resulting
from guns' vibration.
/ Lockheed California COli/party
Top right: Tube-type rocket
launchers tried on P-38s were not
succe sfu!. The' hri tmas-tree'
type worked well, and fittings for it
were added to production L
model . It was also fleld-retro-fltted
to ome eadier Lighmings.
/ MilCh Maybom
Right: Dive Rap, which largely
eased the Lightning'
compres ibility problem. are een
extended beneath the wings of this
P-38L-5, c/n 4 3. / EdwardJablonski
Above: The P-38L assigned to Capt
John A. Tilley, 431st FS. 475th FG,
Philippines. eady 1945.
/ John A. Tilley
Po sum Squadron flew the be t formation in
the group, and we damned well did.'
'Po sum' Squadron was the 433rd FS of the
475th FG. The 475th moved up to
Island, off the north-east coast New
Guinea, prior to the eizure of Morotai.
During this period, the 475th contained two
of the seven Lightning pilots in the theatre
who would down 20 or more enemy aircraft,
at lea t three of which developed a visible
rivalry for the title of top American ace.
These were Maj Richard I. Bong, Maj
Thoma B. McGuire, and Lt-Col Thomas
J. Lynch.
Bong was a 'nice guy' type, sincere and full
of youthful enthusiasm. McGuire was the
opposite, an intense, demanding man who
seemed forever disappointed at the
imperfections of his fellows. He was not
generally liked. Lynch was an out tanding
fighter leader and disciplinarian, a pro-
fessional oldier who led by example, and wa
much respected by hi men.
Bong was clearly favoured by General
Kenney (which was probably a great an
inju tice to Bong as anyone else), and wa
allowed such latitude of action, without
command obligations, that he wa , in effect, a
free agent. McGuire, who had flown P-39s in
the Aleutian early in the war, came to the
49th FG for a brief time, then transferred to
the 475th FG, taking command of the
431st FS in May 1944. Lynch led the 39th FS,
and had shot down three enemy fighters
while flying P-39s, an impressive record in
Above: Revetments of the 9th F
49th FG, Tacloban, Leyte, late 1944.
GeraldJohnson, taxying, would
eventually have 24 aerial victone .
/ GeorRe Walker via Carl &IlR
Top left: On the eve of the IwoJima
Campaign, the veteran 2 th Ph
photographed enemy po itions from
altitude as low as 50ft. This 28th
PhS F-5B-1 on aipan, 10July 1944,
has the early, curved windl reen of
the P-38J-5, although this batch of
F-5B-1s was built concurrent with
the P-38J-lO . / AF
Left: Col Robert E. Westbrook,
leading ace of the 13th AF with 20
aerial victories, was killed on
22 November 1944, while leading
the 18th FG in a strafln ana k on
enemy shipping. Westbrook was on
the first mission of his eighth
combat t ur. / AF
In mid-November 1944, the
Thunderb It-equipped I th . .
7thAF, received 30 Lightnmg
which they formed int the
'Lightning Provisional roup' fm
long-range support of 20th A
bombers. Above i a 31 th Jug,
P-38, and a 47th FS (15th FG)
Mu tang over Saipan. / SAF
1 7
Above: Little Red Head, a P-38L-1 of
the 318th Lightning Provisionals,
gets big drop tanks for a long-
legged mission. Isley Field, aipan,
Marianas, November 1944. / U AF
The so-called 'race of aces' in the SW
Pacific appear to have begun in February
1944; and at that time included Maj Neel
Kearby, 340th FS 348th FG, who ferverently
believed in the superiority of the 340th' P-47
Thunderbolts. But Kearby wa hot down on
4 March 1944, at which time he had 25
Just four days later, Col Lynch was killed
by return ftre from enemy shipping during a
straftng run. He had 21 victories at the time.
McGuire had 16, and Bong 24.
Enemy aircraft were rarely encountered
throughout the summer, and by 1 October,
on the eve of the Philippine invasion,
McGuire's score stood at 21, Bong's at 28.
Then, while the 6th PhR group was
earning a Distingui hed Unit Citation
mapping the Leyte area in the Central
Philippines, the re t of the FEAF was striking
at the enemy's oil facilitie at Balikpapan,
Borneo, 800 mile west of Noemfoor, and
Japanese fIghters rose in trength once again
to defend that vital installation.
On 10 October, Bong, officially attached
to 5th AF Headquarters, flew with the
49th FG as they covered 58 Liberators over
Balikpapan, and destroyed two enemy planes,
an Oscar and a 'Nick' (Kawa aki Ki-45,
Type 2, twin-engine fighter).
Four days later McGuire, uninvited, tagged
along with the 49th to the same target where
50 enemy ftghters were waiting. He shot
down three of them, an 0 car, 'Hamp' ( arne
as Zeke or Zero-Sen), and 'Tojo' (Nakajima
Ki-44, Type 2, similar to Oscar).
About the middle of the month, the ftrst
P-38L models arrived in the SW Paciftc, and
while the e airplanes were fttted with V-
1710-111/113 engines that would deliver
l,600hp (war emergency) orne 2,000ft higher
than before, thi advantage was largely off- et
by a 500lb increase in aircraft weight. The
had got some of their 'gizmos' and
whatchamacallits' in tailed to complicate and
add weight; pressurised drop tanks, and a tail-
mounted mini-radar to warn of attack from
the rear, for example, and though the L
models should not be described as inferior to
the J-25s, much of their superiority was on
paper. The improved supercharger controls
simply did not make all that much difference,
particularly since enemy air oppo ition,
in all theatres, had dwindled to a mall
fraction of that faced by P-38 pilots a year
With two 300gal drop tank, the L model
had a range of 2,600 mile at economy cruise
above 10,oooft. Maximum peed were about
the same as tho e of the J-25 model, 415mph,
for example, at 18,OOOft. Carrying external
ordnance of 3,200lb the L had a radius of
of about 450 mile .
Externally, the L models were quickly
identifted by the landing light mounted flush
in the leading edge of the left wing, perhaps a
tip-off, along with the extra range, of
Lockheed's hopes of extending P-38
production with the P-3 M Night Lightning.
(In November 1944 two P-38Js were painted
black, given APS-4 radar, and te ted over
Leyte by the 547th NFS.)
Below: Capt William Beard I,
T/Sgt V. DeVit add rnl I n
symbol to the Golden &gl, 44
10 that had prev; u J
served 111 North Afri . / . 1
The campaign for the Philirpines b.egan on
20 October when MacArthur s Amencan and
Australian forces landed at Tacloban and
Dulag on Leyte Gulf. The airstrip at
Tacloban was ready just after noon on the
27th, and as the last steel mat was put down
on the 2,800ft landing surface, the 49th FG
arrived with 34 Lightnings, the fl!St
American aircraft on Philippine soil since
May 1942. Bong was among them.
That afternoon, five Japanese
approached the fteld and some 49th FG
went up to intercept. Lt-Col Bob MOrrisey,
Lt-Col Gerald Johnson (14 victories at the
time; 24 eventually), Lt-Col George
and Maj Bong. Johnson got two, leavmg
Morrisey and Bong to de troy one each. The
next day, Bong got two more.
The Tacloban-Dulag area fast became
swollen with aircraft as General Kenney
moved in hi air group for the extended
offensive up the Philippines. The 475th FG
joined the 49th to of Leyte and
John Tilley (ftve offtcial vlctones) remember
that fteld: .
'When my quadron, the 431st, fl!St arnved
at Leyte on 30 October, we operated out of a
mud fIeld which was about 2,800ft from palm
tree to palm tree. For take-off, Cletracs
would tow us from the dispersal area and
back our booms into the palm tree at one
end of the field. The brakes wouldn:t in
the mud, so as soon as we got the engme
started we'd cram on full throttle and go. No
mag checks; just fire up and go. About half
way down the field we'd lap down half
flaps, haul back on the yoke, and pray. To my
con tant surprise, I'd alwa clear the palm
trees at the far end.
'For landing, the flap were full-d wn, the
props flat, and oil and co lant radiator door
full-open for additional drag. I'd have opened
the ide window and stuck out my hand for
even more drag if both hands hadn't been
bu y. We'd then bring it in as low as
possible, barely clearing the tops of the tree,
and drop it into the mud with a pIa h that
covered the whole damned plane. When we
stopped sliding we'd cut the engines and the
Cletrac would tow u out of the way so the
next intrepid birdman could plash down.'
For six weeks following the inv i n, the
Japanese ent a serie of c nvoy to reinforce
their po itions in the Leyte area. The weather
was bad, there wa bitter ftghtin n land,
and three great ea battle, c lle tively
known a the Battle of Le te ulf, were
fought. The 49th and 475thF b mb d and
strafed in support of the Allie' tenuou
pre ence on Leyte. On the 2nd, the 49th
downed 26 enemy aircraft, while the th and
347th FGs claimed 75 de troyed on the
gr und at Bacolod, Carolina, Alicante, and
ebu. One f the Japanese pilot killed over
Le tc at that time wa Lt Goro Furugori,
wh had more than 30 victories, two of them
were P-3 .
Also during the e battles, the 13th AF's
ranking ace, Lt-Col Robert B. Westbrook,
brought his total socre to 20 aerial victories,
13 of which were counted in P-38s. He was
killed on 22 November while flying with the
18th FG.
On 10 November every available P-38 was
up to strike at another Japanese convoy
approaching Ormoc, a few miles outh of
Tacloban on Leyte. Lt Chris Herman of the
431st FS recalled that 'Our CO (McGuire)
knocked off two more for a total of26 ... the
CO got nicked too; part of a Nip plane he
hot up tore off the top of his canopy and
crea ed his noggin. Later, he got an engine
shot out while strafmg a troop convoy.'
Most of the Lightnings were committed to
the Philippines, although the 347th FG was
given the task of hitting the enemy's air and
shipping buildup in the Makassar area of the
Celebes from a base on Middleburg Island.
Flying missions on 7, 20, and 22 November,
the group received a Distinguished Unit
Abo"e: Pil ts of the 9th PRS with an
F-5E-2 converted from a P-38J-15,
Dum Dum, India. And a pox on the
AAF photographer for not listing
the names of the e men! / AF
Top left: Lt Harry H. Sealy of the
459th 'Twin Dragons,' Upper
A am, India, early 1944.
/ William Broadfoot
Bot/alii left: Tube-type launcher for
4.5in M-8 rockets is installed on
P-38J-5 of the 459th FS which was
based at Chittagong on the Bay of
Bengal from 4 March 1944 ro the
end of December 1944./ AF
Top left: Bombing-up a 459th F
P-38J-1O at Chinagong, Decemb r
1944. / USAF
Borrom left: Miss Virginia E, an
F-5B- I of the 9th PRS, leaves
revetment area at RumkhapaJ 11
on the India-Burma Border.
Above: Capt Walter F. Duke orth
459th FS 'Twin Dragons' cored 1
aerial victories in the China-Burm
India Theatre. / William Broadfoot
a tight turn and crashed to his death. The
'race of aces' was over.
Although Japanese troop in Leyte's north-
western mountains would hold out well into
the pring of 1945, MacArthur moved on to
Luzon putting a hore four army divisions in
Lingayen Gulf on 9January 1945. Three days
later, thi force wa driving acro s the Central
Plain of Luzon t ward Manila.
Meanwhile, two 'orphan' squadrons of
P-38 were fighting in Burma and China, the
449th and 459th FSs. The 449th was formed in
July 1943, with pilots in North Africa who
v lunteered to fly their planes to China. The
459th FS was activated two months later as
the 4th Squadron of the Warhawk-equipped
80th FG which was based in Upper Assam,
The Kunming-based 449th FS belonged to
Brig-Gen Claire Chennault's 14th AF, and
hared missions with the 23rd FG, the latter
having taken over the planes and duties of the
famed Flying Tigers the previous July.
From Kunming, and later from Ling-Ling,
the 449th, led by Maj Ed Goss and Capt Sam
Palmer, produced several aces; but enemy air
opp ition was sporadic, and the squadron
expended most of it effort against enemy
upply lines. Lt Tom Harmon, a famous
fi otball player (and nowadays a TV
p rt ca ter) flew with the 449th. In an air
battle over Klukiang, Harmon was shot
d wn but despite painful burns managed to
Citation for pres ing home their attacks in the
face of intense enemy opposition. The
347th also struck at the oil refmerie at
Tarakan, Borneo, to strafe and bomb with
The anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack
was to be the date of the major engagement
to secure Leyte. Lightning, Thunderb It ,
Warhawk , and Navy Cor airs covered the
amphibious a sault at Ormoc on 7 December
1944. While some carried bomb t upp rt
the landings, Lightning of the 49th and
475th FG took care of enemy air ofpo ition.
All were 0 effective that Adrnira Kinkaid
characterised the action as the fme t air
support that he had seen in the SW PacifiC.
Lt-Col Charle H. MacDonald led the 475th
on four mi sions over the beache, hooting
down three enemy aircraft to bring hi score
to 22 (ultimately 28); and Lt-Col Gerald
R. Johnson of the 49th FG also got three f
the 53 Japanese ftghters claimed that day.
Gerald (no one ever called him 'Jerry')
Johnson would later gain a total of 24 air
victorie and survive the war only to acriftce
his life to save that of a fellow pa enger wh
had no parachute in a tricken tran p rt
plane. John on gave the man his own
parachute, then went down with the aircraft.
Gerald Johnson had flown P-39 in the
Aleutians before coming to the ~ h FG in the
SW Paciftc; and he has been characterised as
'ruthless' by some, but that is hard to
reconcile with an incident that took place
over New Guinea late in 1943. He and James
'Duck-Butt' Watkin were part of a 49th FG
rout of a Japane e ftghter formati n, and one
of the few remaining enemy pil ts wa
fighting ftercely for hi urvival. urr unded
by American ftghter and ripped by
numerous hits, the gut Japan e refu ed t
quit and, in fact, wa g ttin in m telling
blows himself. The Am ri an fmall gave up
the chase as the enem ft hter ircled ju t ff
the water waiting fi r th n t attack. At that
point, Gerald J hn n djved up n him, then
banked away, wag lin hi win in alute.
The Japanese return d th ' tur , then flew
On the 17th, B ng
victory, an Oscar, over
Kenney sent him back t
was killed 6 Augu t 1 4
On Chri tmas Day,
Manila began with raid
McGuire downed thr
following up the next d
That brought McGuire t
General Kenney prompt!
until Bong could be pr perl
home. McGuire wa fl in in
7January, but wrule engag d ith n n
ftghter at very low altitude tall d hi P-
walk back to his home field, a journey
requiring 32 days.
The 459th FS, which became well-known
in the China-Burma-India Theatre (CBI) as
the 'Twin Dragons', was commanded by Maj
John E. Fouts and Capt Veri Luehring. As
part of the 80th FG, it belonged to General
Lewis Brereton's 10th AF, and it primary
mission was to protect the terminal in India
and the Air Transport Command cargo
planes that flew over the Himalaya to China
supplying Chiang Kai- hek and the 14th AF.
The 459th also supported Allied ground
operations in northern Burma as Chinese
troops under slowly
regained that land, with outfit led
by British General Orde Wmgate and us
General Frank Merrill ('Merrill's Marauders')
harassing the enemy's flanks.
On 4 March 1944 the Twin Dragons
moved to Chittagong on the Bay of Bengal,
attached to RAF 224 Group, and between
11 March and 26 May desttoyed 123 enemy
aircraft. Then, as evidence of the rapidly
dwindling strength of the Japanese Air Force,
the 459th could add but 29 additional
victories throughout the next 11 months.
The Twin Dragons did, however, become
expert bridge busters. They moved to
Rumkhapalong on the in
January 1945 and during one m?e-day penod,
destroyed 11 rail and road bndges. A week
later, they knocked out three more in a single
Capt Walter F. Duke was the Dragon with
the flriest breath, scoring 10 confirmed air
victories before he went down over Burma.
Maj Maxwell H. Glenn had a total of eight,
five of them in one day. Major Hampton
E. Boggs scored nine kill in the air, and
everal other 459th pilots could count five
The makeshift war in China gradually
slowed during 1945 after the Allie decided
against landing on the China Coa t, opting
instead to take Iwo Jima in the Bonin I lands,
and Okinawa in the Ryukyus. With these as
air and naval ba es at Japan's very door tep,
the fmal assault, and it ub equent upply,
would much re emble that which wa vi ited
upon Hitler's Europe the year before.
In the meantime, another P-38 unit was
formed. It appeared much too late to claim
significant number of enemy aircraft shot
down, but it did see some action, and served
a a comforting' ecurity blanket' for orne
bomber crews. Thi unit was born in mid
November 1944 when the 318th FG 7th AF,
equipped with P-47 Thunderbolts, was
assigned to support 20th AF bombers
operating from Saipan in the Mariana. The
P-47s hardly posses ed ufficient range (and
their pilots were undoubtedly a mite
uncomfortable with one engine over all that
water), so 30 Lightning were sent to the
318th, pread among its three quadrons
(19th, 33rd, and 73rd) and, after four or five
hour' practice, the 'Jug' driver bounded off
in their new P-3 ,with 26 Liberat r , to raid
Over the target, only one fl atplane came
up to intercept the bomber, 0 the P-38s
went down to deal with some Zekes that
were harassing an American convoy. Maj
D. Jack William, 19th FS CO, blew the tail
off one enemy fighter with four hort bursts.
Lt Boone Ruff overtook another and flamed
it, then Maj John Hu sey was surprised at the
destructive power of his 20mm as he fired a
single burst which tore the left wing from a
third Zeke. Two more Zekes went down
before the guns of other 318th pilot.
A few day later, the group's P-38s were
formed into the Lightning Provisional
Group, 20th AF, and during December they
flew more than 500 combat hours, including
three missions to Iwo Jima and one to Truk,
averaging 1,500 miles each time.
On 5 January 1945 the Provisional
Lightnings took the Liberators to Iwo Jima
again. It was an uneventful mis ion for all but
Lt Fred Erbele. Strafing enemy gun po itions,
he caught a 20mm round which tore off the
pinner and destroyed propeller control of hi
left engine. Another round left hi right wing
burning and knocked-out aileron control.
With airspeed down to 150mph he managed
to restart the left engine and climbed to
5,000ft before it overheated. The flames were
out but there was an enormous hole in the
right wing near the trailing edge.
Erbele attempted to form-up with the
other P-38 , but his left prop could not be
feathered and the resultant drag held him
down to 135mph. The group could not afford
to stay with him, but two Liberators dropped
their flaps. tucked-in on each ide, and
indicated that they would see him home.
The windmilling propeller et up extreme
vibration throughout the aircraft and
wreaked havoc with the instrument panel. It
Above: This early F-4 Lightning wa
Aown by the Royal Australian Air
Force No 1 Phot Reconnaissance
Unit.; Frank F. mith
Top left: A P-38 of the 449th FS is
inspected by Chinese troop on the
23rd FG (P-4OS) field at Kunming,
China. ; USAF
Cell/re left: An 1 th FG machine on
Palawan in 1945. The 18th and
347th FGs of the 13th AF Aew long-
range missions to Borneo in
addition to fighting the Philippine
Campaign.; Frank F. mith
Bol/am left: An F-5 Lightning of the
28th PhS on Iwo Jima, March 1945.
This 28th PhS F-SE (converted
P-3 ~ 2 0 ha an escort of Marine
Corsair because Marine I-Lt David
D. Duncan is squeezed into the
m dified dr p tank t identify and
photograph enem p itions on
Okinawa, from altitudes as I was
100ft. / Mitch Maybortl
occurred to Erbele that anything that was not
fastened very securely was certain to come
unstuck, including any possible fulings in his
teeth. His canopy had also been shot away,
but that didn t matter much, until they
encountered a storm front.
Somehow Erbele managed to keep the
crippled Lightning reasonably upright
through the turbulence and emerged trom the
storm wet but still flying. Then a couple of
Thunderbolts picked him up and led him to
Saipan where he landed with 20 minutes' fuel
remaining after flying his bucking bronco for
4hr 20min.
We relate the above not because it is an
unusual tory, but rather becau e it is typical.
A thousand other P-38 pilots in Wodd
War II brought their Lightnings home in
similar, or worse, conditions.
This provokes the telling of an alleged
incident that took place during the battle for
Manila. A P-38 pilot from the 49th FS heard
someone call in distress. 'My engine hit! I'm
losing coolant! What shall I do?' To which
the 49'er responded, 'Calm down and feather
it: Came the dejected reply, 'Feather, hell,
I'm flying a Mustang!'
On the eve of the assault upon Iwo Jima,
Lightnings of the 28th Phr Squadron, led by
Capt Edward S. Taylor, flew within 50ft of
the enemy positions to get their pictures.
Ground fire was intense, so 12 P-38 flew
line-abreast with two F-5s, a the photo craft,
flown by Capt Bennie Bearden and Lt Don
Howard, made three passes to map the entire
Left: P-38L-5s of the 6th AF
g ~ r i n g the Panama Canal,
December 1944. I USAF
Ri.llhr: Charles Lindbergh taxis for
take-off in the machine ofLt-Col
Meryl Smith. Deputy Group
Commander of the 475th FG. On
28 july 1944, Lindbergh shot down
a Mitsubishi Ki-51 SOl/ia, but the
vicrory is not included in the 475th's
total of545 enemy aircraft downed
during its two years in combat.
I Carroll R. AIldersol/
Right: On 19 Augu t 1945, the
japanese surrender envoys are led
into Ie Shima by a B-25 Mitchell of
the 499th B ,345th BG. A B-17
carrying a lifeboat Aies along ide,
and P-3 s of the 49th FG circle
overhead. I U AF
Cemre left: On 6 August 1945,
Charles Lerable had been over
japan in his F-5 Lightning on a
photo mis ion when he saw an
unusual 'thunder-head' in the
distance. He photographed it and
unwittingly got a candid shot of the
Hiroshima A-bomb cloud.
Bottom left: 01 George 'Raven'
Laven, 7th F ,49th FG, and ltsy
Bitsy 1I, a P-38L-5. A previous ltsy
Bitsy wa a P-3 E that Laven Aew in
the Aleutians three year earlier. On
21 june 1945, Laven scored the last
of the 49th's 678 aerial victories in
World War II. I Geor.lle Lavell
Two US Marine divi ion fought their way
ashore at IwoJima on 19January 1945 and the
Provi ional Lightnings of the 318th FG were
overhead that day, and for days afterward,
while one of the bloodie t ground battles of
the war was slowly resolved. Not until the
end of March was a fighter strip ready for use
on Iwo. Then 7th Fighter Command moved
in, a bit prematurely, a it turned out.
On the night of 27 March, after the
Marine had moved out and before Army
troops arrived to replace them, Japanese hold-
outs on the island mounted a 'banzai' attack
on the airstrip, and 7th AF personnel fought
hand-to-hand with the enemy in the
darknes . The airmen, however, proved to be
pretty good combat infantrymen. Seventh
Fighter Command lost 44 officers and men
killed, 88 wounded, while the bodie of 333
enemy oldiers were found when morning
American force invaded Okinawa on
1 April, and neighbouring Ie Shima was
occupied on the 16th. The enemy, however,
was 0 olidly entrenched in huri positions, a
maze of tunnels and caves, on Okinawa, that
the island was not secured until 21 June.
Above: Guy Watson, 8th F ,49th
FG, and hi P-38L acea Mauree.
IGur Watsoll
Celltre right: Three red tripes on aft
booms identify this P-38L as the
craft of Col George Walker, 49th
FG Group Commander. Red
spinner indicate that Walker flew
with the 9th FS. Photo taken at
Tacloban, late 1944.
/ George Walker via Carl O I I ~
Bottom right: Biak, 10 October 1944;
just returned from missi n to the
Balikpapan oil refmerie are (left to
right) Col George Walker, 49th FG
CO, Maj Wallace Jordan, 9th FS
CO, Maj Richard Bong, and Lt-
Col GeraldJohn on, Deputy.Group
CO, 49th FG.
/ George Walker via Carl BOllg
Manila had been liberated four months
earlier, and by 28June most 5th AF units
moved up to base on Okinawa and Ie Shima
to join the 7th and 20th AFs who were there
for the assault on the Japanese home island.
Early in May, American fighters from
Okinawa were ranging over Japan.
Enemy air opposition was almost non-
existent during the last months of the Pacific
war, and it seem nearly imp ssible to
determine just who hot down the last
Japanese airplane. A P-61 Black Widow
night fighter of the 458th NFS claimed an
Oscar on 14 Augu t, the day Japan ued for
The Lightning, of course, ranged far and
wide looking for prey until the very end, but
the only targets they could find were on the
surface. Maj (later Col) George Laven scored
the last aerial victory for the 49th FG.
Laven, who flew P-38s' in the Aleutians
early in the war, was looking for trouble over
Formo a on 21 June 1945 when he found and
destroyed an 'Emily' (Kawanishi H8Kl-2,
four-engine flying boat). Since it wa Laven's
fifth confirmed kill, it also made him the last
P-38 ace.
We mark Col Laven's record not only for
his five aerial victories, but also for the 60,000
ton of enemy shipping and 69 locomotives
he destroyed while bombing and strafing;
and for the 59 times he returned to
ba e on one engine during three years of
Somehow, the e few facts, taken from
the service record of a single P-38 pilot,
eem to sum up effectively all that
we have tried to report here about
the Lightning and the men who flew
Below: The pioneering th PhS,
originally led by Karl Polifka,
moved to Motabu Airstrip on
Okinawa in June 1945. By then, the
eight-ball had become its official
squadron insignia. / U AF
P-38 Production AF Model Quantity AAF erial Lockheed erial Delivery Dale
F-4A-1 20 2362/23 1 5580/5599 3/42
5540 5/42 into 6/42 P-38F-1 148 2322
2359/2361 5577/5579
23 7, 5605,
74 4/7485 5611/5612 Red centre
7497 5624, removed from
7514/7515 5641/5642 US national
The list was compiled from The USAAF erial numbers (s/n) were
7525, 5652, insignia during
USAAF, Lock eed, and US Department of cross-checked from the several available
7535, 5662, 6/42, affecting
Commerce records, the latter providing a sources, including the individual aircraft
7539/7541 5666/5668 approximately
7544, 5671, last 50 P-38F-1s.
IRonth-by-month break-down, record cards. The builder's or constructor's
7548/7550 5675/5677
along with aircraft elivery dates. serial numbers (c/n) , however, do not admit
7552/7680 5679/5807
Lockheed produced a total of 9,923 P-38s, to much sceptical examination since the e
P-38F-5 100 42-12567/12666 7001/7100 6/42 and 7/42
plus the XP-49, which was a sembled from come from a single source. But we were
P-38 spares. An additional 113 P-38s were pleased (and a little surprised) to find that the
(P-38F-5) 20 12667/12686 7101/7120 6/42
built at Nashville, Tennessee, by totals obtained from each source were in
P-38F-13 29 43-2035/2063 322-3144/3172 7/42
Consolidated Vultee, making a total of10,036 agreement.
P-38F-15 121 2064/2184 3173/3293 8/42.a.nd 9/42
machines in all. Aircraft quantities shown in The careful researcher will note that c/n's
P-38G-1 80 42-12687/12766 222-7121/7200 9/42
parentheses indicate airplanes converted at the in the 7101/7900 range were employed twice
F-5A-3 20 12767/12786 7201/7220 9/42
Dallas Modification Centre, Texas. Another by Lockheed, although the prefixe, '222',
mod centre operated in Australia, and a third and '422', indicating Lockheed model des-
P-38G-3 12 12787/12798 7221/7232 9/42
at Langford Lodge, near Belfast. ignations, are different.
P-38G-5 68 12799/12866 7233/7301 9/42 into 10/42
P-38G-10 97 12870/12966 7305/7401 10/42 into 11/42
AF Model Quat/lily USAAF Serial Lockheed erial Delivery Dale F-5A-10 20 12967/12986 7402/7421 11/42
XP-38 1 37-457 22-2201 2/39
P-38G-10 80 12987/13066 7422/7501 11/42 into 12/42
YP-38 13 39-689/701 122-2202/2214 9/40 thru 5/41
F-5A-10 60 13067/13126 7502/7561 12/42 into 1/43
P-38 29 40-744/761 222-2215/2232 6/41 into 8/41
P-38G-10 140 13127/13266 7562/7701
F-5A-10 60 13267/13326 7702/7760 2/43
XP-38A 1 762 622-2233 8/41
P-38G-10 231 13327/13557 7761/7991 1/43 into 2/43
P-38D 36 774/809 222-2245/2280 8/41 into 10/41
P-38G-15 374 43-2185/2558 322-3294/3667 2/43 into 4/43
P-38E 210 41-1983/2097 5201/5315 10/41 into 2/42
P-38H-1 226 42-13559, 222-1005, 4/43 into 6/43
2100/2110 5318/5338
66502/66726 1013/1237
2172, 5390,
P-38H-5 375 66727/67101 1238/1612 6/43 into 8/43
2219, 5437,
White bar added
2221/2292 5439/5510
to US national
F-4-1 99 2098/2099 5316/5317 10/41 into 2/42
insignia 7/43.
P-38J-1 10 12 67/12 69 422-1001/1003 8/43
2121/2156 5339/5374
13560/13566 1006/1012
2158/2171 5376/5389
P-38J-5 210 67102/67311 1613/1822 8/43 into 9/43
2173/2218 5391/5436
F-5B-1 90 67 12/67401 1823/1912 9/43 and 10/43
2220 543
F-5A-2 1 2157 5375 1/42
P-38J-10 790 67402/68191 1913/2702 10/43 into 12/43
F-5B-1 110 68192/68301 2703/2812 12/43
P-322 143 RAF /n AE 978 thru AF 220 2/42 into 4/42
P-38F 128 41-2293/2321 222-5511/5539 3/42 into 5/42
P-38J-15 1,400 10397V104428 2813/3262 1/44 into 5/44
2323/235 5541/5576
43-2 24 /29047 3263/4062
23 2/2386 5600/5604
44-23059/23208 4063/4212
2388/2392 5606/5610
P-38J-20 350 23209/23558 4213/4562 5/44 into 6/44
7486/7496 5613/5623
P-38J-25 210 23559/23768 4563/4772 6/44
7498/7513 5625/5640
P-38K (1) C nv rted P-38E, sin 41-1983 6/44
7516/7524 5643/5651
P-38L-1 1,291 42-1 55 422-1004 6/44 into 9/44
7526/7530 5653/5657
44-23769/25058 4773/6062
7532/7534 5659/5661
P-38L-5 2,520 25 5 /27258 6063/8262 9/44 into 8/45
7536/7538 5663/5665
53 /53327 8263/8582
7542/7543 5669/5670
P-38L-5-VN 113 43-50339/52225 8583/9962 1/45 into 6/45
7545/7547 5672/5674
7551 5678
The following modifications are on record,
although such a list is necessarily incomplete,
and delivery dates from the mod centre at
Dallas were not recorded. Individual aircraft
record cards do show 'date received', but in
the case of machine ent oversea this
repre ented the shipping date. (The P-38M
Night Fighter ha shipping dates beginning
1 Augu t 1945, so it appears unlikely that any
Ms could have seen combat prior to the war s
AF Model Quantity Approx Delivery Date
F-5C-1 128 Converted from P-38J-5 4/44 into 6/44
XF-5D 1 Converted from F-5A-10
F-5E-2 100 Converted from P-38J-15 6/44 into 8/44
F-5E-3 105 Converted from P-38J-25 8/44 into 9/44
F-5E-4 508 Converted from P-38L-1 9/44 into 11/44
F-5F unknown Converted from P-38L-5
F-5G 63 Converted from P-38L-5 1/45 into 3/43
FO-1 4 F-5A-1s transferred to US
Navy in North Africa
P-38M 75 Converted from P-38L-5 7/45 into 10/45
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